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.


Amy said...

I am glad you posted this...I like the halftime analogy. As I collect my dissertation data, I am finding that the term "inquiry" means different things to different people. I always try to utilize the "five features" when discussing what inquiry means to me. However, I am wondering if the shift from the term "inquiry" to the "scientific and engineering practices" in the NGSS will provide us with a more cohesive idea of inquiry in action!?!?

Amy said...

I ask because I think it will take a more cohesive meaning to get more science educators on board with changing their practices.

Lee said...

Sorry for my slow reply, and I look the angle you're looking at this from. I know for sure that us inquiry-phiiles are going to retool in lit of the NCGS.