Friday, December 30, 2011

Tweaking Inquiry

When I was in the classroom, the break around Christmas was always a time when I retooled what was going on in my classroom. It was my half-time for the year, a time to step back and make important changes so that my students would learn better. Half of my time with them was gone, and I wanted the rest of the time with them to be as good as it could be.

If you're new to teaching science by inquiry, you've got a chance to make some key tweaks to teaching and learning in your classroom now. You probably don't need to make huge changes, even if you're frustrated with inquiry. Inquiry is a great approach for teaching! Don't doubt that. Instead, step back and think about small changes that you can make that can give big benefits.

I constantly use the five essential features of inquiry from Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards as my diagnostic for how well I'm doing with guiding learning. Here, I've flipped those around into questions you can use for diagnosing how well inquiry is going in your classroom:
  1. How engaged are your students in scientific questions?
  2. How do your students give a priority to evidence when they are learning science?
  3. How adept are your students at developing explanations based on the evidence they're seeing?
  4. How adept are you at guiding your students to consider alternative explanations for the evidence they're seeing?
  5. How are your students constantly communicating and justifying their explanations?
I've found that if I think through the five essential features, I can usually figure out what's not working well in the inquiries I'm leading and how I can improve my students learning. 

I'll be tweeting out tips based on each of these questions in the next few days. I hope these help you as you teach with inquiry. Please let me know with a comment here or a reply on twitter if you have any questions. I'm happy to help.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

FCR STEM Conference links

Thanks so much to those of you Florida teacher who attended my sessions over the last two days. Here are the links I promised: