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Why are teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
Why are teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
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That's a very good question. Every day, I wonder why I can't get my students to actually do the inquiry work I'd like them to do. When I set them to investigation activities, some work with joy and a great sense of release, but many start flinging things at each other.
My children's teacher has yet to do any science at all, as far as I can tell. Every few weeks, my kids report that he has had them read in the textbook. Occasionally, they bring home a reading with questions. The "science fair project" the class presented was entirely designed, built, and explained by him. It was merely a demonstration. Not one kid in the class has every seen, made, or understood an electromagnet (4th graders).
My excuse is that the kids fling things. I don't know his excuse, except maybe the pressure for the state tests in math and ELA.
So, out there again, why ARE teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
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From my own personal experiences of several years ago, I was afraid that my students would not stay on task, would not learn as much, would not be able to do as well on the assessments, would have more opportunity to "fool around"... I could go on. However, after using some really good constructivist resources and spending the time to set my lessons up so that my students had everything they needed at their fingertips, I discovered that they learned more, retained it longer, and enjoyed what they were getting to do! Teachers that are afraid of inquiry science may need the help of those of us who took the plunge. It is one of those things that until they make that first splash, students and teachers don't realize what they have missed out on.
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My district has been slowly (and gasp - in this day and age - without pressure) rolling into an inquiry based science model using notebooks, authentic assessment, teacher created curricula and PBL units. I work in an amazing district. We have highly qualified teachers, high standards and expectations and we exceed them. We push each other to be a professional learning community. We strive to meet individual needs. And we struggle to do inquiry science at the most basic level. Here are some observations I can make:science is the weakest of our subject areas for most elementary teachers. It is the strongest for a few. It is never a middle ground. Those sciency teachers - you know them - fish tanks and terraria in their classrooms, interactive science notebooks before the words were invented....for the rest...releasing students to do inquiry means having enough confidence in the subject yourself to let it go in any organic direction it will. It means understanding what the misconceptions are, not just the basic material. It means devoting quality blocks of time to "doing" in a classroom space that might not have room in a week that might not have time, for the chance that things will not turn out as you expect them, and you need to have a way to assess student learning along the way. and even in our district where we have a tremendous in-house prof dev system we are not running enough classes that address those needs.
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I had some of my classes begin the meat of their Exit Investigations today. Always on this day, I am reminded that I MUST do this ALL YEAR. Can I just say, OK now your topic is the wind, now it is simple machines, now it is solar radiation, and let them loose? Whew. I've got to remember to try those next year. It's exhilarating.
I think a lot of teachers translate inquiry into this giant leap into losing control. I started with baby steps until I felt comfortable (and my students felt comfortable and knew the expectations)releasing control to my students. They were in middle school, but I think the same fears apply.
I love the Responsive Classroom materials (First Six Weeks of School, etc.). I take those ideas and during the first weeks of school spend A LOT of time on expectations, what does "on task"look like and sound like? What does a good drawing look like? Basically skills and behavior that we come back to over and over during the year, but less and less do I have to "control".
It takes work to set up and "guide" them toward the standards and sometimes I will admit I manipulated the conversations a little to make sure we were going in the right directions.
I'm not going to say that it isn't scary. Every year, without fail, I had times where I felt (and sometimes my colleagues felt) that I was "wasting" valuable time "teaching" them the proper way to get into the materials closet and "practicing" our signal for "quiet". We spent a lot of time team building and practicing good conversation skills with specific "sentence starters". The point is that I always found that it was only through practice and debrief (how did we do today? what can we do better tomorrow?) that I was able, toward the end of the year to release a lot of the control. Then, I watched the fruits of our labors and it all was worth it...again.
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I think one of the problems about Inquiry Based Lesson is that teachers don't really understand what it means and therefore they are 'afraid' that it leads to students off task.
I suggest providing them with the chart in the following website:
I mentor fifth grade teachers who in general are not comfortable with science let alone using inquiry based science. There are levels of this depending on students experiences and abilities as well as age. There are also levels for teacher and starting small is a way to have them gain confidence. Also showing them traditional vs simple inquiry of the same activity helps quell their fears.
Hope this helps.
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Wendy - my building will be using Responsive Classroom next school year - we are familiarizing ourselves now. Your description reinforces my good feeling about this concept - thank you!
Adah - thank you for the resources and the idea of doing the same activity as a traditional lab (for my school that would probably look like a teacher demonstration station) and as inquiry model. I'm going to try that!
I'm so jealous of people who can do Responsive Classroom. My step-mother's school does that, and it is a bully-free school, with comfortable, happy, independent students. She tells of a third grade whose teacher didn't come one day, and the sub hadn't shown up, so the kids held their morning meeting by themselves, then sent a representative to the class next door to ask what they should do next. When a teacher came to cover the class, the kids were all reading silently at their desks, because they knew that would be something useful.
I'm pretty sure the kids in her school could do inquiry science all the time, because they have been taught to be respectful of each other and committed to performing for the best interests of everyone.
Isn't that a nice scene? I love picturing that class all sitting on the rug helping each other speak politely and take turns.
What is stopping you frm giving it a try? I know it is harder when you are the only classroom using the practices but it can be done. I also have to tell you. I totally believe in it now but I was a hard sell in my classroom. I was one of thse who thought I couldn't spare my academic time to do responive Classroom. Was I ever wrong!
After retiring, I have some of my resoure books which helped me implement it. I am willing toshare them. I would be willing to help you in any way I can.
Please let me know what I can do to help?
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After retiring, I have some of my resource books which helped me implement it. I am willing to share them. I would be willing to help you in any way I can.
For the first time, I feel the urge to start a new thread.
"inspirational teaching books"?
"teaching methods books that changed my life"?
"books from the 370s section"? (the education section of the Dewey Decimal system)
Simple: "Amazing education books"
Thank you so much for starting the new threads - this is great idea and we will have so much to share besides the Responsive Classroom materials. It has been a while since you posted about the EXIT experiments - how are they going? Is this an area that you would like to make more inquiry based next year?
Thanks for asking. The Exit Projects are ALL inquiry, by nature. They are independent investigations designed by the student or a small team (I try to keep them down to three people tops). They come up with the topic, question, hypothesis, experimental design, . . . the whole bit. Some teachers try to limit them to Controlled Experiments, some to Field Study (observing animals), but some brave souls let the kids to Secondary Research or Design projects. I actually work with the New York Hall of Science to help teach other teachers how to do them. It's fun. Chaos in the classroom, but fun. Some years, I have a lot of hamsters, some years I need to bring in my power tools; it changes.
I like the idea of just doing Responsive Classroom stuff without waiting for the word from on high (the principal's office). What can I do with 4 different classes of kids (between 21 and 23 kids in each class—we're blessed) that I see for about 60 minutes per day? I'll have to research, but I'd love advice. Thanks.
This is a great question that I know more in the community will “jump-in” and review over time. I think Allison and the others provide great reasons why many at the elementary level don’t spend more time on science. I suspect the reasons vary from the existing NCLB accountability focus primarily on reading/mathematics (but science/STEM is expanding this focus on the horizon) to strict district curriculum pacing guides not permitting time or deviation for inquiry-based experiences, to teachers’ comfort and knowledge levels of “doing science” or the misconception that younger children are not able to do “inquiry” activities.
I think one worthwhile resource to dispel that later point is: Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11625.html). You can read online for free!
Here are a few sentences I pulled from the executive summary. I believe it provides sound arguments based on a synthesis of the research in how people learn and science education research that indeed, young students can think critically, and by facilitating inquiry-based experiences where they may “do science” we can ignite the spark of learning for a lifetime!
[color=blue]Contrary to conceptions of development held 30 or 40 years ago, young children can think both concretely and abstractly…. Children’s rich but naïve understandings of the natural world can be built on to develop their understandings of scientific concepts…. Children’s experience varies with their cultural, linguistic, and economic background. Such differences mean that students arrive in the classroom with varying levels of exposure to science and varying degrees of comfort with the norms of scientific practice…. At the school, district, state, and federal levels, inequities in the quality of instruction and the qualifications of teachers, resources, facilities, and time devoted to science result in widely different learning opportunities for different groups of students…. Students’ knowledge growth and reasoning are components of a large ensemble of activities that constitute “doing science.”… Instruction occurs in sequences of designed, strategic encounters between students and science. Any given unit of study may include episodes that are highly teacher-directed as well as structured student-led activities. Across time, quality instruction should promote a sense of science as a process of building and improving knowledge and understanding.[/color]
Do you all think that indeed a shift is occuring, where elementary teachers may be able to focus more on "hands-on" activities that facilitate crtical thinking in learning science? What support would they need to feel comfortable to try this, understanding that a little more "noise and chaos" could facilitate more engaged learning at times?
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After reading the excerpt from Taking Science to School, and thinking about his question, i have multiple thughs swirling at the moment. One thought is an excellent resource that brings Taking Science to School to a teacher level is Ready ,Set, Science which is available in the NSTA science Store. Here is a description I borrowed from there:
[color=blue]Ready, Set, Science! is filled with classroom case studies that show how teachers work to select and design rigorous and engaging instructional tasks, manage classrooms, orchestrate productive discussions with culturally and linguistically diverse groups of students, and help students make their thinking visible using a variety of representational tools. This book summarizes a rich body of findings from the learning sciences and builds detailed cases of science educators at work to make the implications of research clear, accessible, and stimulating for a broad range of science educators.[/color]
I highly recommend this book to any classroom teacher who is trying to implement inquiry and best practices in science. My favorite chapter is 5 which focuses on science talk, a topic dear to my heart.
Back to Al's question, what do teaches need to move forward ? I think teachers need to have administrators who understand the importance of including science instruction as part of the curriculum. I believe there is data to support the fact that students who have the opportunities to engage in science also show improve improvement in literacy..reading and writing. Engaging in science also means using reading and writing as tools in science instruction eg science notebooks.
When I begin to think about science notebooks, I think of a couple of different people. I think of Karen Worth at the Education Development Center who has recently created a Professional Development Model of 8 modules which takes you from Classroom Culture, Inquiry, Science Notebooks. Science Discourse. I was lucky enough to learn this program with colleagues. Each of took one module and presented it to each other. That meant that each of us became very familiar with one of the module and therefore a resource for others.
Another person I think of is Besty Fulwiler who is the author of Writing in Science another frequent presenter at NSTA Conferences.
Other supports...I think teachers need models. They need to see how science instruction can be done well. When I was in the classroom and I was asked to consider trying something new, my first question wwas "Where can I see it?"
Those are my initial thoughts, evn though they are a bit lengthy :-)
Hi Wendy, Kathy, and thread readers,
Please share those resources that are available about "responsive classrooms". Inquiring Minds want to know. And speaking of Inquiring Minds, there is a web seminar coming up with that heading scheduled for May 12th at 6:30 p.m. EST. Registration is free at: "What is Inquiry? Inquiring Minds Want to Know".
It seems that helping students become better communicators and research-investigators goes hand-in-hands-on with science.
Responsive Classroom is a wonderful resource - It is a framework for establishing a very open, supportive classroom culture. If you have these expectations then it may make it easier to to do more creative things...like rich inquiry experiments throughout the year.
In my area the books are in the public library, and we have a building set of materials right now that any teacher can use to find out more. You can view information at www.responsiveclassroom.org Official training is expensive though. You can see some in action at youtube if you search "responsive classroom" some of he videos move slowly...
[i][color=blue]Kathy wrote :
Other supports...I think teachers need models. They need to see how science instruction can be done well. When I was in the classroom and I was asked to consider trying something new, my first question was "Where can I see it?" [/color][/i]
Yes! Seeing it done well is as important to us as it is to our students. Now I have a question for you....in what forms would you be willing to see it? And how would you rate those places/media in terms of their efficacy?
In response to my posting about models, Caryn wrote, " Now I have a question for you....in what forms would you be willing to see it? And how would you rate those places/media in terms of their efficacy?"
Well my 1st choice and I believe the most effective is face to face. Visiting a classroom where great things are happening would be premiere, but I don't only want to go for one day, one period and then have no contact and be done. In my ideal world I would be able to visit multiple times, the teacher would be willing to mentor me. I would go back to my classroom and maybe try something and then my mentor and I could talk about it.
The next best thing would be maybe??? looking at videos of best practice but if I don't do it with a colleague, a science coach so we can talk about it nothing is going to change.
I am not sure about this one but I have been thinking about it. What if I wrote up how I would teach a unit on sinking & floating, electricity, or something like that? I could then talk to the person or persons here at the LC answer questions,etc. I am not sure if it would work. There might be materials issues, and probably other things also. Just a thought...don't know if it is feasible. It would be a research project for me. Hmmmm....
Kathy wrote: I am not sure about this one but I have been thinking about it. What if I wrote up how I would teach a unit on sinking & floating, electricity, or something like that? I could then talk to the person or persons here at the LC answer questions,etc. I am not sure if it would work. There might be materials issues, and probably other things also. Just a thought...don't know if it is feasible. It would be a research project for me. Hmmmm....
The common theme in your choices (which I absolutely agree with) seems to be the connection to a colleague or mentor over time. I love the idea of being able to use the Learning Center as a platform for some type of peer review.... I can visualize posting a short video clip of an activity in class or a lesson plan and being able to receive feedback - I wonder about the logistics of it...would it be an open forum or do you sign up to be a part of a cohort? Is there a time frame for posting and feedback? Broken up by grade level or topics or learning modality? Kathy - what a great use of the technology and community we have available here!
I have been thinking some more about this and another idea I have that wouldn't be difficult to implement is how about forming some book clubs/study groups? We could choose a book, divide the chapters, set timelines for posting about the reading that we had done. A good one to use for this particular thread might be Primary Science: Taking the Plunge by Wynne Harlen. This is just an example, maybe we could start a thread brainstorming a couple of books people think would be good to read. it would also be good to see if people think we should have an elementary, middle, and high school choices. And I do think we would need to set up a structure that includes ideal time to begin, how many people in a study group, etc. to make this work.
I am not giving up on the ideas discussed previously. I would still like to do that in some form and I think the Learning Center could be a great platform.
Okay, I have put my idea out there. What are your thoughts and/or questions?
Like Wendy, I found that approaching inquiry in baby steps helped me implement it in my classroom. I've found that using guided inquiry at the beginning of the year helps set my classes up for a successful year. It gives the students the experience of inquiry-based learning, while giving them the framework to learn the process of inquiry based learning. As students (and the teacher) become more familiar with inquiry, the students can move into full inquiry lessons.
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You made an important point by suggesting that you can move from guided to full inquiry during the school year. Do you always begin your year with a certain lab? Are there resources that you would recommend to a teacher new to developing inquiry lesson plans?
...how about forming some book clubs/study groups? We could choose a book, divide the chapters, set timelines for posting about the reading that we had done. A good one to use for this particular thread might be Primary Science: Taking the Plunge by Wynne Harlen.[/color][/i]
Kathy - I love the idea of a book club here in the LC. Summer reading? I wonder if NSTA Press would give participants a discount on at least an electronic version of a resource to use?
As for our larger topic of lesson plan review/mentoring - I am sticking with my idea for being able to load bith materials and short video clips/student work.
Caryn mentioned " Summer Reading..." I like it.
I am certainly willing to be part of a book study or group. Are there others who might be game? If we have enough interest, then we could begin to figure out the logistics?
PS I still haven't thrown out the idea about writing up a unit...that will be summer work too :-)
I too like the idea of a book discussion as well as ways to help teachers develop methods of inquiry for their elementary students.
I just spent a week 'playing' with my three year old grandson who is into Thomas trains. I was his 'guide on the side' as he constructed different configurations of train tracks and made numerous decisions about curves, inclines and the number of trains which could make it around and up and down the track. I watched inquiry in action : )
I'd like to see the elementary schools he goes to have inquiry as a given.
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
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In looking at "baby steps of inquiry" here is a continuum of inquiry:
Inquiry_Continuum.jpg (0.35 Mb)
I too like the idea of a book discussion as well as ways to help teachers develop methods of inquiry for their elementary students.
Do you think if a group of us, anyone on the Learning Center who is interested, doing a book group on the LC as a possible model would be productive? I also see it as as professional development for the professional development providers. It would be completely separate from other Learning Center responsibilities.
Maybe I am just a dreamer.....
Do you think if a group of us, anyone on the Learning Center who is interested, doing a book group on the LC as a possible model would be productive?
OK -DRAFT VERSION - we have a grade range to start with: Elementary and a topic: Working toward Full inquiry now we need a book or two. I would like to propose that we work with new releases, because we will inevitably bring in our tried and true resources to support our discussions as we go along. The NSTA Press new releases page has several candidates - maybe we could get a discount for our endeavor? This way even the old favorites get a new spin....
Caryn suggested we choose a new NSTA press book. I went ahead and chose two possibilities that I think that will work in helping us achieve our goal which is to help elementary teachers and students become more enaged in inquiry science.
1. Hard to Teach Science Concepts: A framework to Support Learners in Grade 3-5 by Susan Koba and Carol Mitchell. This book is supposed to be available this month. I also think there might be a possibility we could get Susan to join our discussion. if this is how we decide to go , I would be willing t pursue this.
2. Yet More Everyday Science Mysteies Stories for Inquiry BAsed Science teaching by Richard Konicek- Moran
What do others think?
Can I say that I would love to do Hard to Teach Science Concepts first and then pull in [u]Yet More Everyday
[/u]...as well as other resources once we have established our own context. Does that make sense?
So far it is you and me. I am ok with Hard to Teach Concepts.
Mybe others will join now that we have decided on a book.
Next we will need to figure out a schedule for reading and posting.
by Caryn Meirs, Mon May 02, 2011 10:20 PM
You made an important point by suggesting that you can move from guided to full inquiry during the school year. Do you always begin your year with a certain lab? Are there resources that you would recommend to a teacher new to developing inquiry lesson plans?
One of the best resources I've found for doing guided inquiry with elementary students is the http://www.nsta.org/publications/press/picture.aspx" target="_blank">Picture Perfect Science Lessons series. These books help introduce young learners to inquiry based science using a common storybook as a launching point. They are excellent resources. I also conduct guided inquiry by giving my students an open ended problem to solve, but I "pull" them in by offering only certain tools or supplies to solve the problem. By providing these parameters, the students are free to explore their ideas for solution, but they are "guided" since they are limited in what they can use to solve the problem. A quick example would be:
PROBLEM: Blow up an ordinary balloon without using the air from your lungs. Then you could supply different tool such as 2L bottles, vinegar, baking soda, sugar, flour, water, etc. The students still need to problem solve to figure out how to fill up the balloon, but they are guided because they are supplied with specific tools to solve the problem.
Maureen and Caryn,
I have to agree that using a unit from
Picture Perfect Science
is a good place to start. My favorite is the Force & Motion unit that is taught using [i]Sheep in A Jeep[/iI have used and adapted this unit many times depending on the audience.
I have used it with children in preschool, preservice teachers as well as my science network leaders. The feedback I have gotten has been very positive.
The inquiry is very guided but it can be a good place for teachers to start. The units also have embedded literacy work within..all the more to use to justify using instructional time for science.
As students and teachers become more confident in doing "inquiry science" there can be a gradual release of responsibility.
Although the first book is recommended for Grade 3-5, the units can be adapted up or down. There is another book written specifically for grades K-2 called
More Picture Perfect Science
. I have also used some of these with a higher grade level.
Hi Karen and all inquiring minds,
I am attending this web seminar on inquiry on Thursday. Perhaps we can inquire about elementary inquiry with the presenter Arthur Eisenkraf !
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NLC/webseminarIX.aspx'' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NLC/webseminarIX.aspx' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NLC/webseminarIX.aspx
What is Inquiry? Inquiring Minds Want to Know.”[/b]
Title: “What is Inquiry? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Date: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern Time
Presenter: Arthur Eisenkraft, Distinguished Professor of Science Education, Director, Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC)
Inquiry drives science as well as literature, film, art and all creative ventures. School science must include inquiry so that students can experience the processes of science and not just be required to memorize the products of science. Teachers, administrators, parents, teachers and the public interested in improving science instruction should be able to recognize if inquiry is a central part of instruction. This webinar will assist teachers in understanding how to move toward inquiry in their science instruction. Classic pendulum labs and density labs will be adapted to an inquiry investigations in order to illustrate how all instruction can be more inquiry[/i]
It would be great if you asked a few questions about inquiry at elementary level. it will be very informative to get Arthur's perspective on how to implement inquiry in the elementary grades. One of the things I keep thinking about is how to get administrators to value the time spent on inquiry science. Without administrative support it will be difficult to make changes in instruction.
I was originally signed up for both web seminars for Thursday night but now I have to work a double shift at the Learning Center so it will be difficult to attend.
Okay Kathy I will ask that question about administrative support and inquiry.
If others can not attend and would like me to ask questions please post them here
I will report back : )
This is such an active and interesting discussion thread! I love the idea of having a book study on this topic. I have just finished reviewing 4 different articles (from the plethora of resources in our NSTA Learning Center)on inquiry in elementary years. I will mention two of them here as great resources for the elementary teacher looking for some "quick read" background information on what inquiry is and how it is being implemented in lower elementary classrooms. These are both from the Science & Children journal:
1.Editor’s Note: A year of Inquiry
2.From “Adding Inquiry” to “Doing Science”
The first article gives an overview of a whole year's worth of Science & Children journal articles that focus on inquiry.
The second article is a detailed explanation of how a second grade teacher experienced the change in her children with the change in her teaching approach to embed inquiry strategies with science content.
Carolyn - it speaks to the depth of the resources here in the learning center that our own learning center advisors collection for science as inquiry does not include wither of those articles. It does however list 14 other terrific resources - you can check them out here: Inquiry: Elementary Collection
Here is a Journal article from Science & Children that can help a teacher with an outside activity using inquiry.
A Walk in the Woods-Journal Article-Science Children.pdf
A_Walk_in_the_Woods-Journal_Article-Science__Children.pdf (0.40 Mb)
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Relinqishing control is initially never an easy mission. Teacher mentors in my life have to remind me of this all the time. This is where I agree again with Wendy Ruchti. She gently reminds us that we are not wasting time when we frontload and practice with students expectations. I've learned that all subjects have materials to be distributed. Add materials into the mix of hands-on learning and some teachers feel uncomfortable. Letting the students "have-at it" learning makes the situation anxious producting. I've gotten use to noise in the classroom and have actually found that music calms the environment as well. Thanks for the inquiry-based resources.
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Lintz makes a good point. When we introduce our students to new routines, we often make assumptions and forget to spend time teaching and practicing those skills.
An example in my mind would be, we want our students to successfully participate in science tslks where there is collaboration, where they can easily disagree using evidence.
in order to make this work, students would need to be explicitly taught skills necessary to reach this goal. After they have been taught, they need time to practice. After they have practiced, then it is time for a gradual release.
I think teachers are afraid to release control for several reasons....1- it is scary for some because it isn't the way we were taught. Most of us grew up in classrooms that were very teacher directed. It's human nature to perform based on what we saw for 12 years day in and day out. 2- we as teachers must release some of the control and trust in our students. That is also tough in an era with no accountability for our younger generation....we ask ourselves, "what if they are not on task?"and "what if the don't learn what they need to?" When it comes down to it, students usually rise to the expectation we set forth. They also, particularly at the elementary age, are so happy to be able to get up and move, that they will focus and stay on task for the sheer chance to engage with others and get out of their seat. I hope teachers across the nation realize that we as adults hate sitting and being lectured for hours on end, so of course an 8 year old is going to zone out even earlier.... we owe it to our kids to adjust, adapt, and perform at a level that alligns with the expectations that have come from the outside world....Change is hard, but I always think to myself....What kind of classroom would I want my child to be in.
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Welcome to the discussion forums! Thanks so much for sharing your insights. You are definitely spot-on! I really liked that you identified that students tend to rise to the expectations of their teachers. I look forward to reading more of your inputs. :)
I have noted that many contributors here mention teacher's own fear but what about the administrator's fears. I have always had a very high tolerance for outward "chaos" in the name of creativity. I have always believed that learning requires non-linear paths that may diverge a but before converging down the road. A few years ago, my class was observed during an inquiry based density activity. I had 9 tables of 3-4 students all working to solve a problem as I circulated to help. There were a variety of approaches in progress and some groups needed more input than others. My review we dreadful - The evaluator did not see the point, thought I was wasting time, created too much mess ......... :(
I am now somewhere else but the experience did drive home that not everyone understands inquiry.
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Pam brings up a point worth pondering in the inquiry arena. Administrators do need to be informed so they know what they are seeing and hearing.
I also think that if we can provide teachers strategies and scaffolding to help them implement guided inquiry , most teachers are going to be open to engaging students in what they know to be effective science instruction.
But there are also teachers who honestly would not know where to start changing instruction to some form of inquiry.
Lets be honest there is a continuum of inquiry. All of us are at different points on the continuum and I for one was way back at the beginning. With help, I was able to learn and therefore change the type of instruction I offered my students..it was my intention that it be very different from the way I was taught.
I am wondering if we could begin to brainstorm some down and dirty lessons and/or suggestions that would help teachers and students embark on the beginning of the inquiry journey??
I think one of the easiest things to add to almost any science class is beginning the unit by posing questions to the students. I have introduced an overarching concept for the year by saying, "Write in your journal everything you know or any questions you have about energy." You can start the discussion of liquids by asking the kids what they think a liquid is and building, as a class, a definintion. When we study fish, I say, "If I had a bucket in the front of the room and I said there was a fish in it, what sort of a creature would you expect to see in the bucket?" Not only is this an easy and sometimes quick way to uncover preconceptions, it can lead any teacher down the path of inquiry--heck, sometimes the students write the questions for you!!!
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Pam makes an excellent point regarding administrators. I've always been very fortunate to have administrators who are supportive of inquiry-based science and creative problem solving, but I can imagine that to an outside observer, sometimes my classroom would definitely appear to be chaotic. One strategy that has worked well for me when using inquiry is to ensure I am communicating my lesson objective and inquiry lesson plans. Since my administrator is aware of my lesson plan, and knows that I am doing an inquiry based lesson, there is no surprise when she comes in my room and sees inquiry in action. Another strategy is to show the outcome inquiry based lessons. This can be accomplished in several ways such as student portfolios, student lab journals, a completed project, or reflection on lesson plans.
Maureen wrote, "One strategy that has worked well for me when using inquiry is to ensure I am communicating my lesson objective and inquiry lesson plans. Since my administrator is aware of my lesson plan, and knows that I am doing an inquiry based lesson, there is no surprise when she comes in my room and sees inquiry in action. Another strategy is to show the outcome inquiry based lessons. This can be accomplished in several ways such as student portfolios, student lab journals, a completed project, or reflection on lesson plans."
These are both excellent strategies. Keeping your administrator in the loop is an essential part of an inquiry based lesson. Otherwise, they may see the activity as play time. Having something tangible for students to show at the end of a lesson displays what students have learn and also allows them to reinforce what they learned when they share it with their parents.
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Just wondering if you are doing a Book study. I would love to join... I just started making posts, so I didn't know about the possible book study until now. Let me know if you are doing one and which book I should get.
Also, I believe teachers are concerned about leaving the learning up to the students. With inquiry-based science, teachers feel students have too much of the control. Even when teachers are supposedly using inquiry-based science, some teachers will end up "giving the "correct" answers". When used correctly, inquiry-based science is like finding the holy grail! Students learning is imprinted in their minds through discovery and aha moments! I love inquiry-based science.
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I just recently finished a week long (8:30 - 3:00 PM daily) seminar on Inquiry. Can I say that my idea of what inquiry was resembled a free-for-all. That is NOT what it is. It is teacher guided. It was invaluable to me to have that training. As a matter of fact, my colleague and I were able to develop 2 inquiry units to go with our curriculum topics. It involves a lot of planning- planning of what you want them to come up with for exploration, what concepts you want them to arrive at, what questions for inquiry exploration you yourself will create in case the questions they students came up with miss the point and one is needed, how to direct toward the right move in discovering the concepts when students are stuck, how to assess their learning, on and on! Wow. VERY deep. We did this through the CT Science Center. A good resource for learning how to teach inquiry is:Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning. You can get it on Amazon for a small price... I actually got mine at a tag sale for 50 cents believe it or NOT!!! I was shocked. At any rate, having a workshop like the one I attended and participating as a learner in an inquiry is the true way to know how it feels as a learner, how it looks as far as involvement of the teachers, and how it gets to the desired result. You truly can NOT expect even "sciency" teachers to get it until they have felt it or participated first hand. I thought I was kind of doing inquiry because I used FOSS kits and the children had a lot of hands on experiences. Also because I let children explore things they come up with (testable questions). I was wrong. But don't blame me... no one had taught me. Now I know.
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by Susan Grandick, July 28, 7:30 PM
Just wondering if you are doing a Book study. I would love to join... I just started making posts, so I didn't know about the possible book study until now. Let me know if you are doing one and which book I should get.
Welcome to the discussion forums. I noticed that you are the top commentator...Congratulations!!! :) There is a book study on-going in the elementary discussion forum. The book is Hard to Teach Science Concepts: A Framework for Supporting Learners Grades 3-5Here are the links to the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 discussions. We look forward to hearing your input!
It sounds like you had an amazing Inquiry expereince. can you share in more detail what you actually did that helped you have a better understanding of Inquiry science?
I just reviewed a neat article from this month's Science & Children on Inquiry. The front cover of the article has an effective graphic as it defines the sequence of thinking and activities that need to happen in a science classroom.
Here is theSteps to Inquiry
Hope you find it helpful.
Two colleagues of mine and I attended a week long Inquiry workshop from 8-3 each day. We experienced a true inquiry lesson as students first, then experiencing the same lesson in a guided hands on way, then as teachers digesting our experiences/findings. The thing that I find most interesting is how my thinking had shifted after the workshop.
Initially, we were told to write down in a notebook what we thought inquiry was. I had written: Inquiry is student-drive exlorations based on a teacher-given topic (that the student is wondering about). A student will develop a question, thik of how they might answer it, and plan an investigation to explore the topic. I now know that that description more closely follows development of a testable question and the procedure to test it. In the back of my mind, I thought that inquiry might turn into a bit of chaos with second graders (whom I teach). But my bent is toward student driven learning, so I was excited to learn about it, particulary in light of a tri-state review board report that said we needed more inquiry lessons. The tri-state board is a group of educators from the neighboring states who have science programs of excellence. They had just reviewed our districts' curriculum and found us to have an excellent program, but as being weaker in inquiry. AFTER the workshop, I wrote that inquiry is teacher-facilitated and designed experiences, leading to learner/student driven focused investigations, all to hit content in a more experiential, meaningful way for the learner. This is then synthesized by group share/teacher synthesis. Wow. The experience is not a free-for-all, it is teacher directed, yet still engaging. I also learned that not all of our instruction needs to be inquiry based, yet we as a group of educators, enjoyed it so much that we decided to build at least on inquiry based experience into every topic of science (and in the first topic- matter- we have created TWO!!). Different approaches to hands-on science support different objectives for learning.
In a nutshell, I was pretty convinced we were doing inquiry because the students had hands on experiences. Wrong. Now I know that true inquiry always is teacher directed to get to the content, but the students decide the path toward the learning through their questions they developed after open observation of materials/phenomenon that is set up by the teacher/facilitator in a very directed way. The teacher then can also have a question or two in case the questions are not leading to an opportunity to learn content that you need to teach them. I can elaborate further if anyone wishes, but that is what I came to see. One thing that is troublesome is that true inquiry takes TIME, and that is something we have very little of in the elementary level. But isn't it true that we always have time for what is very important to us? There may be some days where you give the inquiry over several days, and then catch up in the other areas you "borrowed" time from on other days. It is worth it, that's all I can say.
By the way, it is difficult to outline all the things I did on the forum, but you can look at ALL of them on this website: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ifi/
It won't make up for going through the workshops personally with facilitators, but it will give you a great framework and idea for what IS and IS NOT inquiry. I know there was a lot of discussion about behavior during an inquiry. The teacher is in control of making sure that guidelines for exploration of materials and use of materials is set up at the start of the year. Children unable to follow those guidelines might be set up with a directed activity and when they see they are missing the fun may fall more in line. Also, the teacher should be providing just what is needed for the inquiry investigation just at the right time. That eliminates too much movement, chaos. Time limits also help the children to focus hard on the task. Hope this helps.
Thanks for sharing your experience at the training and the link. The information you provided is a great resource for anyone who hasn't had a chance to attend a similar PD experience!
When I think about the title of this topic thread, I think your sharing points out something very important that needs to happen before teachers are comfortable releasing their students to inquiry. First they need to be released themselves. They need to understand the importantance of inquiry thinking for themselves before they can think about it for their students.
Teachers need some type of professional development that provides the opportunity for themselves to be immersed, to experience inquiry science firsthand. Then they are going to need support as they begin to change instruction because there will be good days and bad days as most change is often difficult.
I am hoping that the community here at the Learning Center can be a huge piece of that support system; helping all teachers find resources, documenting research, providing support through the discussions and sometimes asking the right questions to help us all reflect on our practice.
Approximately 10 years ago, myself and three other colleagues had the opportunity to attend the Inquiry Institute at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for 2 weeks. That experience was a milestone in my own professional learning in science. Wynne Harlen, author of Primary Science, was one of the instructors. Small world, isn't it?
Now the important piece is figuring out how we can help others add inquiry practices to their science tool box.
Karen and other readers, if you had to offer someone who was thinking about adding inquiry practices to their instruction one piece of advice, what might that be?
My advice is to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Isn't that the secret to all good learning experiences though? For every subject? If you have everything all written down and you have all the supplies laid out and ready, and you are anticipating what may or may not come up and formulated in your own mind how you will handle it, you will have a much easier time of it. And it is exciting to see your students struggle a bit, even though the temptation is to step in and help them out of it. By supplying "thinking tools" or small nudges in the right direction without taking over, you will be thrilled to see the authentic learning taking place.
Also, I would step right in and just TRY it. The world isn't going to fall apart if things don't go according to plan. And talk to your colleagues. How did they make out? Did they have similar problems? How did they overcome them? Make some changes and try it again next year on a different class. It won't be the ONLY thing you do to teach science. Hold off on doing it for an observation with the principal until you feel confident and comfortable, but try it.
Maybe ask your administrator for a chance to observe at a school where they are doing inquiry science lessons. The way I investigate a new software program or piece of technology is that I play around with it a bit, seeing what certain buttons or keys do, trying things. That's a bit like observation and inquiry. The manual is my back up. I learn by doing and struggling a little.
Inquiry has 3 phases:
Phase 1: Inquiry starters- Facilitator has placed the objects/phenomenom/materials out in a planned, purposeful manner- a manner designed to get the learner thinking questions that will lead to the concept being taught (i.e. a stream table investigation- one set up to explore flow (volume/speed) effects, one to explore slope effects). Students are divided into 2 groups- starting at one or the other. In notebooks they record "I Notice/I Wonder" as they observe the processess in a directed manner. They then get sentence strips to write down their I wonder questions. The teacher collects these and while students are away the teacher seperates them into categories according to content: slope, flow, particle size, chaos, QFL)
A notepad with "How does water affect the substrate and how does the substrate affect the water: is written for all to see, and the teacher reminds the students of those questions.
Process Skill Goals are:
The teacher scans the questions for investigability. She/He also charts "I notices" to gauge content awareness of the group.
Phase 2: Focused Investigations-
"I Notices" are charted. Some content is established here
Overview of the questions offered - categories NOT revealed, and a mini lesson on investigable question is included at the beginning.
Students are encouraged to identify variables and cite measurability
Students are shown materials available to plan and conduct their investigations. Materials include measuring and set up materials
Students are told they will be responsible for sharing out their findings
Students do a gallery walk and select a question. They form groups of 3 based on their interest in a question.
Students plan investigations, teacher checks in with groups and signs off on investigations (checking to see if they will give desired results)
Teacher checks with groups as they plan.
Students are given one and one half hours to complete their investigations (or cut into 2 days- since we don't have that kind of time)
Thinking tool provided- sedimentation shake bottle. Prompt to think about sediment sizes.
Teacher circulates to groups asking questions, clarifying details, and getting a sense of what the groups will be sharing.
Phase 3: Sharing understandings
Students plan for share out with chart paper, markers, stream tables, rulers, etc. Given 20 minutes to prepare, 10 to rehearse, 3 minutes each to share. Teacher records concepts information on 4 different charts, one for each concept
Teacher conducts a synthesis at the end of the share out. The synthesis allows students to confirm what they know in light of each other's presentations. It is also a chance to refine conceptual understanding of the concepts
Teacher reviews presentations, students self-assess their notebooks and draw a Line of Learning, after which they write about what they have learned in light of the presentations and teacher synthesis.
I hope that brief overview gives you an idea. For example, We "messed around with slope and flow" and learned a lot in the process. Our "messing around" was really intentional and planned- on the instructional as well as student side of it.
Re:Kathy- that IS pretty amazing! You must have had a similar experience! Once you have experienced it yourself, it is hard to go any other route.
Karen - thank you for sharing so much about what you learned at the forum - it sounds like a simply amazing experience that truly reshaped your understanding about inquiry. I am in high anxiety gear up for the first few weeks...So based on your experience, what will be the most visible difference in your classroom come the first day of school?
Kathy - just one piece of advice? Begin with the end in mind and keep it in sight the entire time! I can get sidetracked by those out of the blue questions and teachable moments, but as long as I have my guideposts to keep me on track and constantly moving in (very wobbly) line toward those big understandings then I know that anything we discover along the way will be great!
If you want to know what you will see that is different when students walk into my classroom the first day, hopefully you will see the sage off the stage and the guide on the side. I don't know if you will see that ALL the time, but hopefully MOST of the time. I think some children may need more guidance, but that is differentiation, isn't it?
I notice you said [quote]My district has been slowly (and gasp - in this day and age - without pressure) rolling into an inquiry based science model using notebooks, authentic assessment, teacher created curricula and PBL units. I work in an amazing district. We have highly qualified teachers, high standards and expectations and we exceed them. We push each other to be a professional learning community. We strive to meet individual needs. And we struggle to do inquiry science at the most basic level. Interactive science notebooks before the words were invented.....[/quote] This is a good description of the affluent, rigorous district I teach in. We as teachers have been developing curricula for many years now, and match it to our state standards and expected outcomes and national standards as well. We have embedded tasks, actively use notebooks (and actively working presently on developing some common guidelines for notebooks without supressing what little particulars a teacher prefers- such as three ring as opposed to a composition book), and have formative and project based assessments K-5 (and beyond). We also have walk-throughs. STILL, what happens in the classroom depends on the individual teacher. Professional development is the only answer, and it has to be great PD, where the teachers are students and become highly engaged. THEN they will see that they can do it. Regarding getting off base, I learned a trick in that week that kind of addresses that. The teacher grabs all the questions on the sentence strips and puts ones that are off track or do not get to the concept discoveries to the side. That's why every group has to come up with at least 3. Don't forget- it's not just the ones that are way off base. Some questions are easily found out with research, and not inquiry based. An example might be "Why do frogs croak?" Well, I can look that up and find out that they do that to attract a mate. Question over. That's where the teacher can step in and say, "These are really interesting questions that we can look up later, after our inquiry. They can be answered by looking it up in a book or on the Internet." Additionally, your students should be coming up with more researchable questions AFTER the inquiry, which is fine, laudible even. It means they got the basics and want to go deeper because of their discoveries.
- food for thought- Our school, like many others, is moving toward the Reader's Workshop model. This model gives ownership of the learning more to the student. I am going to Columbia University Teacher's College next week to bone up on that more after dabbling in it last year. Maybe skittish teachers could keep this in mind. How different is it from the Reader's Workshop model? There are similarities. Some relinquishing of complete control, but certainly not a free-for-all.
Hey Karen -yes it does sound like our districts and our teaching philosophies have a lot in common :-) Thank you for sharing so much in this forum. I loved your getting off base remark...
Regarding getting off base, I learned a trick in that week that kind of addresses that. The teacher grabs all the questions on the sentence strips and puts ones that are off track or do not get to the concept discoveries to the side. That's why every group has to come up with at least 3. Don't forget- it's not just the ones that are way off base. Some questions are easily found out with research, and not inquiry based. An example might be "Why do frogs croak?" Well, I can look that up and find out that they do that to attract a mate. Question over. That's where the teacher can step in and say, "These are really interesting questions that we can look up later, after our inquiry. They can be answered by looking it up in a book or on the Internet." Additionally, your students should be coming up with more researchable questions AFTER the inquiry, which is fine, laudible even. It means they got the basics and want to go deeper because of their discoveries.
I learned a new trick regarding this same idea recently as well. Its called a question parking lot. Off topic questions are quickly and quietly placed in a designated space to be answered later without disturbing the ongoing work. We will use this concept in our new science lab - a variety of sticky note sizes and a bulletin board placed at the side of the room - so any students can be guided to use it and come up with time to answer later or in the case of questions left by little ones or real stumpers, the 5th grade geek squad (name TBD later by them) will give them a try and then work with the student who asked the question.
Yes, they used that parking lot question method with our group of instructors also in this training! It is GREAT because it saves you from getting bogged down or derailed. At the end of the training they went over the parking lot questions and most of them were answered from the experience itself. Great, GREAT idea having older kids helping the littler ones with research. I think I will offer that to the fifth graders upstairs... Not ONLY will it help self-esteem in the fifth graders, serve as a good model for doing research for the little guys, but it will also help the fifth graders reinforce concepts, topics, and ideas already previously learned so that they can review for the CMT (in a more enjoyable way than working from study sheets!). The CMT is the Connecticut Mastery Test, and in science it covers every topic they were supposed to have covered from K-5. If they haven't learned from INQUIRY, LOL, they may very well forget everything they knew, even if it is hands-on things they did eons ago. Thanks for sharing that Caryn.
Why are teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
I think that for so many years teaching was a “teacher-centered” practice for most. Teachers were comfortable presenting the class with information while the students “absorbed” it, or so they thought. At the same time, it is difficult to give a 7 year old a rock kit and allow them to explore it without fear that one of those rocks will end up in their backpack or hitting another student in the face. Yet students in this day and age need hands-on approaches and opportunities to build inquiry skills. One thing I have found that helps my students is to demonstrate how to set up an inquiry investigation and then allow them to explore using guidelines and the scientific method. I also use a lot of technology. Discovery Education has some great inquiry/learning labs online that allow students to perform an investigation using virtual labs to explore concepts. These virtual labs allow the students to use their love of technology (do you know any child who by age 7 has never played a video/computer game?) to explore science concepts and build inquiry skills without the “mess.” ?
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I think inquiry science takes a lot of time to do. It also takes practice to do well. It would help if teachers had good inquiry lessons to follow and a mentor as a guide and sounding board.
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I would think maybe teachers are afraid to release control of inquiry science due to the fact they are not comfortable teaching it. I would be afraid to do it since my students have a hard time sharing manipulatives. The students are still in the mode that the want the manipulatives and it is very hard for some to use the blocks to make one tall tower of blocks. Maybe I need to takae more time to explain to my Kindergartners how to share and co-operate with each other to accomplish the task. I will take a look at More Picture Perfect Science and see what I can do.
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I agree with Wendy that one needs to spend A LOT of time on expectations at the beginning of the year—appropriate classroom behavior (no throwing or flinging!), and other basic skills such as using a magnifier and writing one’s name on drawings. (I teach in early childhood.) To reduce interruptions, we use “silent signals” for requesting to use the bathroom, get a drink of water, and to see the read-aloud book picture. To facilitate transitions I use a song for gathering the children into a class circle, a phrase to sing to get them to pass the materials, and an action poem to close an investigation session. I find it’s easier to give children a job to do, such as collect the markers, than to try to keep them still while others complete their work.
I am jealous of Kathy’s experience where she and some colleagues of took a module from the Education Development Center on Classroom Culture, Inquiry, Science Notebooks, and Science Discourse and presented it to each other. They became very familiar with one of the module and a resource for others.
I agree with Kathy about teachers (myself included) that [i]“They need to understand the importance of inquiry thinking for themselves before they can think about it for their students.
Teachers need some type of professional development that provides the opportunity for themselves to be immersed, to experience inquiry science firsthand. Then they are going to need support as they begin to change instruction because there will be good days and bad days as most change is often difficult.”[/i]
And with Karen that, “[i]And it is exciting to see your students struggle a bit, even though the temptation is to step in and help them out of it. By supplying "thinking tools" or small nudges in the right direction without taking over, you will be thrilled to see the authentic learning taking place.[/i]"
I created a collection of resources for teaching science in early childhood (preK-grade 2). Please let me know if there are other resources I should add to it!
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Peggy, I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate the posting of your Inquiry Collection! The first two resources were unfamiliar to me, so I looked at them first. Wow! I can see so many applications with my elementary preservice teachers for using the Exploratorium:Fundamentals of Inquiry Workshop from the Institute for Inquiry (mentioned by Karen, too - Thank you!). Plus the older article by Mary Bud Rowe called, "Science,Silence,and_Sanctions" was an excellent read.
You are welcome Carolyn.
Karen and others have brought such great resources to my attention.
With resources and professional development I hope we can help each other, and other preservice and in-service teachers, find ways to make science inquiry happen in the classroom, even for very young children.
I think weekly/monthly support and oversight by a mentor or administrator is vital in helping teachers new-to-inquiry establish it with their students. Does anyone have a planning tool, such as a calendar, or lesson plan format, that teachers can use to guide their thinking about what their next action in an inquiry should be? I know this is a rather general question. I want a format where teachers might record what they want the students to learn, how they hope to assess it, and then begin to list the steps they take, and list the students' actions and questions, to make it easier to see what action they should take next to move the inquiry along--discussions to hold or books to read or materials to put out.
Wow! There is a lot here to digest.
I agree with Patricia that unless teachers ( me) become comfortable with inquiry themselves they are not going to use the process with their students. And I can also tell you from experience that it is not fun going it alone.
I think Patricia references one of the huge stumbling blocks we all face as we try to implement inquiry processes in our classrooms when she says " Maybe I need to take more time with my Kindergarteners to show them how to share and cooperate" I have to tell you that this was of one of the hardest things for me to do. I didn't want to give up any academic time to do that soft stuff. Well after I wasted a lot of my instructional time giving directions over & over & over and asking students to listen, I finally got it. I needed to teach them the skills they needed to interact with their peers, myself and materials. I had been assuming they knew how do that stuff. Boy, was I ever wrong there!
So I really agree with Peggy about setting expectations, etc. I couldn't do it by myself. I started reading the Responsive Classroom materials and then took a course. How things changed after that. [url=http://www.responsiveclassroom.org/about-responsive-classroom]About Responsive Classroom...[/url]
Peggy, it was a great experience doing the work on "[i]Science and Literacy: A Natural Fit[/i] but I did it after I left the classroom. I think it is a great resource and a model for schools, grade level teams to do together. I think an administrator would be excited if a teacher asked to do something like work.
Karen, the little bit of shakiness, of cognitive dissonance is all necessary for learning.
And last but not least, is there a way we help and support each other here at the Learning Center as teachers try to embark on this inquiry process? Could we choose one article from peggy's collection to read or discuss? Is there a sci-pack that a teacher might do to become comfortable with the content they are supposed to be teaching? I know that the content piece was a part of the puzzle I had to figure out.
Let's just keep on talking.:-)
Ok..I am back because after reading an article called Capitalizing on Curiosity by Adam Devitt in the Summer Science and Children 2011, I just had to post.
After a long, arduous cleanup at the end of classs, I asked talked with a couple of students to find out why they were "playing around" the whole class. One student, Tommy, soon looked confused and replied passionately, "No, we were working the whole time!"
This type of situation often happens in classrooms and we often do not recognize scientifc learning occurring because of our insecurity about classroom management. This author through reflection was able to make changes and allow inquiry learning to occur.
I highly recommend it!
Capitalizing_on_Curiosity.pdf (0.26 Mb)
I agree, Kathy, that Adam Devitt's article, Capitalizing on Curiosity , in the Summer Science and Children 2011, is good reading about seeing the science learning in children's explorations. Nice to hear how reviewing one's mistakes leads to better teaching.
Any ideas on how to make the content of these articles most accessible to preK-elementary school teachers? Would they have time to read articles for a monthly discussion group? Does pairing up with a more inquiry-experienced teacher help new-to-inquiry teachers make it successful in their classrooms?
I know I benefit from bouncing ideas off of more, or differently, experienced teachers.
I have been teaching Kindergarten now for six years. My first year, I had tried to implement the Project Approach, which I learned about from Lilian Katz, but I failed miserably, primarily due to my lack of classroom management and because I was hired at a school with a lot of scripted curricula, so I wasn’t able at that point to find the balance.
Now, years later, I am still struggling with incorporating inquiry-based learning in my classroom. Again, since our curricula are so demanding and time-consuming, I find it hard to provide students that concentrated amount of time to delve into an inquiry-based unit. I sometimes feel like we get started, but then it falls to the wayside as other activities come up.
Is anyone else teaching at a school with a heavy-duty reading and math program, and also finding time for inquiry? I would love to know how you are balancing those two.
Thank you also to Kathy for sharing the link to the Responsive Classroom site. I enjoyed looking through the site, and reading through the sample chapters of The First Six Weeks of School. For me, I felt some relief to know that the time I am currently spending on helping my students internalize routines and develop appropriate classroom behaviors is time very well spent. As the chapter mentions, I want to “zoom ahead” with my curriculum, but every time I do, something reminds me that I need to slow down and focus on those basics first.
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I have often wondered about that question myself. I realize that as a teacher of elementary students, they really need to be guided through the inquiry process. Students at the elementary level are naturally curious and make great scientists. However, because of their limited experience with the inquiry process, I have found that they need to be walked through each step of the process, at least for the first several times.
I teach fourth grade and my school is fortunate enough to have a science resource teacher. The science resource teacher works with the students on creating experiments and running “labs” that take the kids through the scientific process. My class has had the opportunity to visit the science resource teacher’s lab this week. The resource teacher explained the “lab” that he wanted the kids to conduct and reviewed the steps that needed to be addressed in their science journals. After that, the students were released to work in pods on the experiment.
I was quite anxious at the quick release of responsibility that the science resource teacher gave to the students. I didn’t think the kids would be able to stay focused, on task and fill out their science journals correctly. However, as the lab progressed, I noticed that the students were able to conduct the experiment, for the most part, in an independent manner.
Of course, the students did need guidance, help, and support from both myself and the resource teacher. That is to be expected when conducting a “lab” with students at the fourth grade level. I think the idea that elementary teachers are control freaks that don’t’ like to relinquish control to the students isn’t that far fetched, nevertheless, there is a rational explanation for that. I found that the students were able to conduct the experiments in pods, on their own, for the most part.
However, the key element that allowed them to do this with success, was the fact that there were two teachers in the science lab with them, helping to guide them through the process. It was much easier to have access to the students and to answer their questions or to pose questions to them, when two teachers were monitoring the class versus just having myself to run the lab.
This is just an observation that I had, but in all my years of teaching the scientific method to elementary students, this was the first time that I actually had the opportunity to have another teacher to work with in the science lab. The lab ran a lot more smoothly with the two of us working together to help provide support to the students. I would venture to guess that this may very well be the reason why many elementary teachers have difficulty relinquishing control in this area.
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My students have not been exposed to inquiry before, so I have to teach the process as well as the content!
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This is a great conversation. There are so may pieces to this.It is complex but doable and I think ( if you are like me) you will be happy and glad you put the time into it.
Jennifer said." I felt some relief to know that the time I am currently spending on helping my students internalize routines and develop appropriate classroom behaviors is time very well spent" Jennifer I was one of the last converts to Responsive Classroom but after I gave it a chance I quickly realized that I got much further in my curriculum because I wasn't dealing with behavior problems.
When I first began implementing inquiry science in my classsroom, it was not all smiles and roses. Things did not go exactly as i planned it but the students and I were able to work through issues so that each time we worked on the the Inquiry Cycle the situation improved. The students were familiar with the inquiry cycle and guess what .. those first few times, we did guided inquiry where there was a specific outcome expected yet students were involved in the data collection and analysis. They also learned with me that inquiry is not a linear process. Scientists don't always follow "one scientific method" , sometimes they need to double back and maybe revise their question or procedure.
Jennifer H. all inquiry should be based in some content. One idea in the beginning might be to explore content that is a bit under grade level so the students can become familiar with the inquiry cycle without getting caught up in the content.
I am attaching the cycle of inquiry. Maybe we can spend some time discussing that.
Cycle_of_Inquiry.pdf (2.22 Mb)
Thank you to everyone for honest and helpful sharing.
I came to this thread because I am preparing to present a session on "how to get teachers to do real-student-driven inquiry" now, after my sure-to-be-a-success efforts at doing just that didn't work out so well.
I facilitated a lengthy curriculum-specific PD at which my teacher participants verbally and physically appeared to be all in favor of and all ready to advance from guided inquiry to student-driven. I thought I had the PD equivalent of a magic bullet. I modeled releasing control of the question, investigative procedure, data collection, and conclusions while managing the content and behavior boundaries. So, the participants experienced what it's like to be on the students' side of the desk, so to speak - exhilarating and intimidating. Then they reflected on barriers, issues that they might have with doing this in their classroom, so that they gave voice to nagging un-articulated things that might impede their success. They planned strategies and actions to confront the barriers. Then they visioned successful student-driven inquiry in their classrooms.
Then, I was in the classroom of the super-star participant of the PD, on the day that he initiated the student-driven inquiry. This was after months in which he had presumably been nurturing and evolving the students ability to do good inquiry. He literally said, "today, for your student-driven inquiry, you will be testing the water fountains, and you will use this procedure and this data sheet." The water fountain investigation to which he was referring was the example that I had provided to illustrate what a student group [i]might choose [/i]to investigate and how they [i]might choose [/i]to proceed. Sigh.
I've spoken with science coordinators and curriculum developers who share the very same story, that in spite of [u]everyone[/u]'s best efforts and best intentions, the teachers just cannot break through their personal barriers, whatever they are. The best advice I've been given is to take baby steps. But nobody tells what those baby steps might be or what the triggers for the baby steps are.
As a PD provider, what do you do with, or say to, or give etc. to teachers to overcome their resistance to giving student-driven inquiry a try? What motivates a teacher to do this? How do you help them see that, while they might think they are using student-driven inquiry, they really aren't? What strategies or methods or tools imbue sufficient confidence to enable risk-taking?
Mary Ann Stoll
620 Activity Points
The best advice I've been given is to take baby steps. But nobody tells what those baby steps might be or what the triggers for the baby steps are.
As a PD provider, what do you do with, or say to, or give etc. to teachers to overcome their resistance to giving student-driven inquiry a try? What motivates a teacher to do this? How do you help them see that, while they might think they are using student-driven inquiry, they really aren't? What strategies or methods or tools imbue sufficient confidence to enable risk-taking[/color]
The New Teacher Center has a module about the inquiry continuum where you can look at what teacher driven and student driven inquiry looks like. Teachers can see where they may be on this continuum. [i]This might be the baby steps . [/i] I am attaching the inquiry continuum too
How to instill motivation in teachers to do inquiry ?
You might want to figure out a way to have them see
[b]What is Inquiry? Inquiring Minds Want to Know.”[/b]
[i]Title: “What is Inquiry? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Presenter: Arthur Eisenkraft, Distinguished Professor of Science Education, Director, Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC) [i]
[i]Inquiry drives science as well as literature, film, art and all creative ventures. School science must include inquiry so that students can experience the processes of science and not just be required to memorize the products of science. Teachers, administrators, parents, teachers and the public interested in improving science instruction should be able to recognize if inquiry is a central part of instruction. This webinar will assist teachers in understanding how to move toward inquiry in their science instruction. [/i]
[b]The WHY of why it is not being central to teachers might be based on fear. [/b]
Fear of what they need to 'cover' in their curriculum .
Fear that inquiry does not look like they are 'teaching'
Fear that students might ask questions that they do not (yet) have the answers
Fear that, perhaps, it must all be student driven or not be true inquiry
It might be good to ask WHY ?
My best to you, Arlene JL
I agree that using classroom management skills at the beginning of the year can really help in the long run. The students learn that the teacher is in control of the classroom and as a result the teacher will be able to use less control as the year goes on. I am unfamiliar with the name “Responsive Classroom”. I will be looking that up. Thanks for your helpful input. I am a college student and it is encouraging to know that inquiry instruction in science can be done and still maintain order in the classroom.
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When I began teaching nearly 30 years back, I was also reluctant to implement student driven inquiry based strategies for reasons mentioned by some of our colleagues in the forum.
I had to teach dispersion of light to my children at a remote small town (by local standards) known as Mongar in Bhutan. The school didn't have a lab at all. Thanks to my colleague in charge of school stationary, I borrowed nearly 20 plastic rulers of 30 cm each and gave one each to my students and asked them to go to the playground and look at things through their rulers. My kids really enjoyed the acitivty (the school used to commence at 7.30 AM when it would be very bright and sunny with snow around during winter months). Their experience paved the way for their own questions such as "Why do we see many colors when we look at something through the rulers?". Obviously, this first step helped me in introducing the textbook concept (Dispersion in a triangular prism) with ease. My experiences helped me to train my colleagues as well (most of whom would have abandoned student driven inquiry based approaches). Student driven inquiry instils an immense sense of ownership in children's minds and as a consequence, assures their active participation in classroom processes.
However, in countries like India, where I work, the scenario is somewhat grim with many teachers still prefering chalk and talk, lecture demos and multimedia based lessons to student driven inquiry based approaches because they are expected to `complete the portion' and fulfil quantity driven curricular requirements.
Panamalai R Guruprasad
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I was really drawn to this topic when I saw the title, because I am a self-admitted "scaredy cat". I don't really know what I am afraid of when it comes to inquiry, but it is just something that I have a hard time doing. I recognize how important it is and how powerful a teaching tool it can become, but there are other factors that contribute to my hesitancy. One of the main difficulties is time. I also teach at the same school that Jennine teaches at and I find it so difficult to balance the expectations of our school curricula and what I would like to do. I also feel that my own personal inexperience in science makes it difficult for me to set a strong model. I am impressed and inspired by many of you thread participants. It is my goal this year, to make a sincere effort to let students participate in at least one inquiry activity. Does anyone have any good suggestions for guiding students to choose appropriate inquiry projects? How do you really give students "control", yet keep them accountable to grade level benchmarks? I know that that's probably a pretty dumb question to most, but I guess I need to really start at the beginning. I will continue to keep my eye on this thread so that I can get more ideas and inspiration to fulfill my goal. Thanks to all you wonderful and inspiring science "gurus"!!
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Here’s a question for the group which may help teachers like Jennine and Jason who are working on beginning a science inquiry with their class:
Are science centers a step towards science inquiry? Does having independent tasks at science centers help a class begin to take responsibility for asking questions and finding answers? These are parts of the EDC Cycle of Inquiry in the document that Kathy attached, see page 10. And will it allow a teacher to let go more easily? I am thinking of the relatively less-messy investigations such as using a dropper to put water drops onto squares of various materials to observe absorption and beading up of drops (thanks to EDC’s Karen Worth and colleagues); handling, drawing, and comparing weights of rocks using a balance; building ramps and rolling objects down them (thanks to researchers at UNI and constructivist teachers everywhere); observing and drawing small animals such as caterpillars or roly-polies; or making leaf rubbings of various leaves. Reading and writing, and using math skills should be part of all these explorations.
I’m not an elementary school teacher but I would think the centers could be a way to see what engages the students most and includes the local-state-national standards.
Great topic. I teach kindergarten and have always had difficulty with inquiry based learning. I find it so difficult to guide their thinking without guiding too much. Like Jennine said- I start off strong in a unit and then other important things pop up and our enthusiasm loses steam. For me, it is a work in progress. We do a lot of science learning but I've yet to master the art of inquiry.
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I am not sure any of us ever master the science of inquiry ( well, maybe there are some people who do) but I find there is always something in the process I can do better. And it doesn't matter whether I am teaching preschool, 6th graders or adults.
Inquiry has many components. I know I cannot teach it all at once. One of the strategies I use is to pick one to focus on during a unit or lesson rather than it all. For example, during one lesson, my inquiry objective might be to have my students practice predicting and/or hypothesizing but in the next lesson we might work on experimental design, drawing a labeled diagram, and then the next one working on recording data while conducting an experiment.
Each one of these needs practice and just because we did it once doesn't mean we never do it again.
Basically what all of this does is help keep me focus and not let the many distractions of teaching get in the way.
I am sure there are people more knowledge than I on this topic, what can you add to this discussion? What strategies do you use to make sure inquiry happens in your classroom?
Hey, I have an idea! Is there somebody who might be willing to try some part of the inquiry process in the classroom and then share it with the rest of us. I am going to think about it but I hope there is somebody else who might be willing to share.
Hello, I am jumping on this thread a few months late... I saw several posts about Responsive Classroom teaching, and was wondering would it work for middle school? Releasing control of inquiry science to students is one of the things I am struggling with, mainly because students are very disruptive and unsafe. I would like to read more about RC, and see if it is something that I can share with my administration. Please share your experiences and any additional reading materials!
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Well I decided to do some research about Responsive Classrooms and I went directly to the source.
here is what I found out :
For middle school, we recommend Origins, our regional affiliate in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Origins’ Developmental Designs for Middle School program is based on many of the same principles and practices as the Responsive Classroom approach.
Responsive Classroom for Middle School
I hope this helps. I will also help checking out this site.
I have been thinking about the big picture here. It does not matter whether you are in an elementary or a middle school classroom. What matters is the culture you build in your classroom, starting the first day of school.
That does not mean you cannot start tomorrow. You can and your students ill be mre open to learning in a safe-risk free classroom.
What resources can we share with each other to get started with this?
I think that teachers are afraid to use inquiry science in their classrooms, because they fear that the students may not stay on task. The teacher may also fear that the inquiry will not meet the state or district goals. I am still studying education, and am not yet a teacher; therefore I haven't been able to personally explore inquiry science in a classroom. In my science methods class, I have read journal articles about inquiry science, and I love the learning opportunities that come along when using inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning is student centered and it gives the students an opportunity to make more science explorations. A great article that I just read is "Attracting Student Wonderings" by Judith Kur & Marcia Heitzmann. It can be found right here on the NSTA. It is a Science and Children article from 2008. I look forward to using inquiry science in my future class.
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have read journal articles about inquiry science, and I love the learning opportunities that come along when using inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning is student centered and it gives the students an opportunity to make more science explorations. A great article that I just read is "Attracting Student Wonderings" by Judith Kur & Marcia Heitzmann. It can be found right here on the NSTA. It is a Science and Children article from 2008. I look forward to using inquiry science in my future class.
This is a wonderful article about inquiry at the primary level. Just so others know you can search for journal articles here
Here is the link for the "Attracting Student Wonderings" by Judith Kur & Marcia Heitzmann.
As the authors approached a unit on magnets with their first-grade students, they decided to incorporate more inquiry into their district’s learning module, Magnets: Elementary Science and Technology Module for Primary Grades (State College Area School District 1993). By restructuring their lessons, using science talks, and listening carefully to their students, they were able to transform students’ surprises and wonderings into testable questions and meet district learning objectives. As a result, the unit had a magnetic effect on students, allowing them to use scientific inquiry to think and act like real scientists
Wonderful that you are studying to be a science teacher !
My best, Arlene JL
On the note about Responsive Classroom in the middle school. RC works at any level although I have only experienced it in the elementary setting. I think what really makes it work is the time you invest up front. You need to set up the behaviors and expectations before you an move forward with it and while it seems like you are losing days of instructional time - you do really get it all back in time that you do not have to deal with behavior management later = - truly amazing! If at all possible, find a school in your area doing RC and visit! There is no substitute for seeing RC modeled in real life. Good luck with it!
Why are teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
I realize that this topic has been going on for quite some time. I would like to add my "point of view", which has a slightly different slant. I don't think it is teachers being afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students. This past summer, during district in-service, a few early elementary teachers were sitting at my table. During our break, we all began talking about what we were going to be teaching this upcoming year(as teacher do). They mentioned that they were very uncomfortable about teaching inquiry science in their early elementary classrooms. These were experienced teachers, but they did not feel confidence in their own ability having been trained more in the language arts area. They had been to the workshops provided by the district to help them, but they told me they were given a lot of information in a short amount of time and were expected to implement it. I convince two of them to join NSTA, one already was a member, and told them that as I reviewed articles, I would keep in mind their concerns and would send them the name articles that might help them teach certain science concepts. Because we all teach in the same district, I was able to access their web sites or e-mail them to find out their upcoming units. I specifically looked for articles that would help them....baby steps as we keep saying. These one or two articles every now and then has not overwhelmed them. And just recently, I have found that they are now sharing with other early elementary teachers at other schools. This shows me that change will occur when we address the concerns that some teachers have (almost on an individual level). It may seem a slow process, however with the colleges teaching the newer teachers inquiry science for the elementary grades, I believe inquiry in the science classrooms (no matter what grade level) will be the common form of teaching.
Your different perspective helped me think back to my own begining in inquiry science. I had had NO inquiry science training, but I had a colleague like you Sue ( her name was Sue too :-))ho encouraged me to learn more about inquiry. I was able to participate in inquiry learning for two weeks. I learned about physics of fluids and ... ( over 60, can't remember ) But anyway , increasing my content knowledge by actually doing inquiry science made the difference for me. I was able to offer my students rich inquiry expereinces because i had done them. I knew what some of the questions would be because I had dealt with them in my own learning. Doing this provided me with the confidence to try it in my classroom. I never looked back.
I highly recommend trying to get engaged in inquiry scienceas alearner before offering it to studens if possible.
I was nervous about releasing control to my fourth graders until I taught in an International Baccalaureate school, whose curriculum has a strong foundation in inquiry-based learning. I went to a workshop by John Barell who wrote the book "Why are School Buses Always Yellow?" (great book, easy read, by the way). Hiw workshop and his book both proved to give me the courage and the knowledge base of how to become more of a faciliator and not just be a dictator. If proper time is spent establishing expectations, keeping students accountable, and strong teacher monitoring and questioning throughout the activity, not only is inquiry-based learning effective, but it is more fun and engaging. As an added bonus, it allows students across all levels to placed on a more level playing field (so to speak) when a new activity is presented and experimentation begins. I am no longer a teacher in the I.B. environment, however, still practice many of the inquiry-based activities with my current students.
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I so agree with you. You have to do the legwork before real inquiry learning can begin because it includes asking questions, making predictions, collecting and recording data, analyzing data, interpreting data,engaging in argumentation and drawing conclusions.
How would releasing control look in a specific science unit? Can you tell us more.
One example of a lesson that involved me releasing control was right in the beginning of the year when I moved to fifth grade and had my students reviewing the steps of the scientific method. Now, as we know, there are countless "canned" experiments out there that clearly go through each step of the method, step-by-step. However, after reviewing the steps of the method and having the students record notes in their journals, I literally opened my storage cabinet, told my students to take whatever they wanted (within reason, of course), and create a question, hypothesis, and a way to test it. It was a HUGE risk--I didn't totally trust what they'd come up with, but I went forward with it anyways. It turned out to be an enormous success! It took a few days to get through the activity, but each group came up with the most creative experiments! The most memorable was the group that wondered if using a mirror and sunlight could catch a dried up leaf on fire. They didn't get it to catch on fire, but when the leaf started smoking, my entire class was ecstatic! As I have learned over the years, kids often come up with much better ideas than I do.
Another activity is one that we are doing after the holiday with my current fifth graders. We are currently studying electricity and magnetism. One of the culminating activities we do in our school is for the students to each make a flashlight. First, we lay out the materials (a piece of PVC pipe, a 9-volt battery, two christmas tree light bulbs, a foil cupcake holder, a cleaned out fruit cup, a 9-volt battery holder with its wires stripped, a paper clip, a brass brad, and tape). Before we give them the instructions on how to assemble it, we have them speculate how it would work. Some kids have trouble with this, but others figure it out before we even give them the directions.
Ironically, the most important part of giving up control is to actually still have a great deal of control. Good classroom management is crucial, and just the right amount of guidance (but not too much!) is needed on the part of the teacher. And of course, laying the foundation and giving students the background information to be successful in whatever you set them free to do is crucial!
Kirstin said "Ironically, the most important part of giving up control is to actually still have a great deal of control. Good classroom management is crucial, and just the right amount of guidance (but not too much!) is needed on the part of the teacher. And of course, laying the foundation and giving students the background information to be successful in whatever you set them free to do is crucial! "
So true. Through guided inquiry you are letting your students learn and construct their own knowledge rather using canned labs where students are just going through the motions, they already know how things are going to turn out.
one of the culmunating activities I used to do was to light a house up.
I must say after reading these conversations that I agree with much of what's been said. With my second graders I found that unless I had spent a lot of time teaching and having them practice procedures for just about everything that goes on in the classroom, no matter how well I planned an activity, it was doomed to be unsuccessful. I noticed that there were several references to Responsive Classroom. After I started implementing Responsive Classroom methods in my classroom, it made all the difference. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but the results are well worth the efforts. I recently loaned one of my books to a colleague who was interested in helping her students become more caring. We had had some incidences of bullying in our school, and one of the students involved was in her first grade classroom. I believe the title is Teaching Children to Care: Management for Ethical and Academic Growth. She came to return the book one day while my students were involved in an inquiry activity and was amazed at how well they were working together, including my students with learning difficulties. They were focused on the task at hand and were helping each other along the way. I owe it to Responsive Classroom methods. This book in particularly helps you guide students to be less self centered and more centered on the good of the community (their classmates). I can't say that my classroom runs smoothly all day everyday, but I have certainly come a long way with classroom management.
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As you have mentioned, creating a culture for learning is very important. Thank you for being willing to share with colleagues. I , too, am a Responsive Classroom fan, after I went kicking and screaming. While we are familiar with this program, I am sure there are others that work also.
It takes time to create the culture you want in the classroom. Give your permission for both you and your students to practice. Maybe start at circle time when you ask your students a simple question like " Is the book alive?" Explain your thinking. that should start a discussion about living vs non living things.
Or maybe you will read aloud "Even An Octupus Needs a Home". This could lead to a discussion and eventually an inquiry about habitats.
Kristen, Kathy and Margaret -
I came across an older article (2002) in the NSTA Learning Center co-authored by Maryann Fitzgerald and Al Byers. The article addresses reasons why teachers do not use more inquiry based learning - and it struck me as interesting to think about this question being a decade old AND because the article focused on the failure to select appropriate activities.
Does anyone have a method for evaluating potential activities or lesson plans - that is aligned with the new CCSS/NextGen Standards?
As an Elementary Science Coach, I see this across the board. After working with teachers and students, eventually, gradual release occurs. I find that teachers, (especially established teachers with years of experience)are hesitant to release control of Inquiry Science to their students because they feel they will lose control of the class. It takes a while with modeling to bring them around. I work in classrooms (as requested by the teachers only) modeling the inquiry process and alloeing the students to take control of te learning. Eventually, the teachers see and understand that the greatest learning occurs when students take ownership of their learning.
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Thanks for sharing this with us. I am wondering what type of modeling do you do? What is the first thing you try to do with a group of teachers to help them begin to release control?
I was thinking if we could begin discussing some of the strategies that might help move us foward in our science instruction. In fact, I will be starting a new forum about just that.
PS. I just found an article that might be helpful for teachers who are working towards inquiry teaching in science.Many Levels of Inquiry
I love this question. I think it is one that needs to be addressed more. Sometimes teachers are afraid to release control to their students, thinking their students can't handle it. These teachers are missing out on precious opportunities for their students to actually learn how to think about science, as opposed to just doing science. There is a huge difference! Moments of inquiry and discovery are vital to science education and it would be well for us as teachers, and also for our students to allow for those times of thinking to occur. I have seen in my experience that students learn better when they are able to see for themselves why and how something works the way it does, from science experiments, biology, math formulas, physics, etc. I wonder if some teachers believe their students are incapable of scientific reasoning and thinking. That is a gross misconception. However, if kids aren't allowed to develop those skills, chances are they won't develop. It's quite the conundrum. Our job as teachers isn't to just demonstrate how science works, but to teach our students how to make these inquiries on their own. Turn them loose! You will be surprised and awed at what happens!
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I have truly enjoyed reading all these posts. I have to learn about Responsive classrooms and how I can implement them. I would love to take that inquiry class that Karen shared and will be sure to check out the link she offered.
I also would love to work for some of the districts mentioned. Unfortunately, I too have an administrator that doesn't always get it. She seems to understand that chaos can sometimes be good but there is a fine line between what she considers okay and not and so far it hasn't been clear as to how she defines it.
I am also intrigued by having a science coach, I wish our school would. However, I can also see that no matter where or what subject some teachers seem to think, "I modeled that for you, you should be able to do it", which is not the case. In that line of thinking all I have to do is watch a surfer to be able to surf.
Thank you for all the good insights. This thread was very interesting.
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Whenever I think of inquiry (or how to explain the concept to another teacher) I simplify the discussion. If you frame the process by reminding yourself that children are naturally inquisitive, then it is easy to see that the following strategy will fit most lesson introductions.
I have five words in bold letters that are along the top of my board space. I reference this throughout the year whenever I want to encourage students to ask questions. I do not need to speak...I just point towards the word(s). These five words are WHERE, WHEN, WHAT, WHY and HOW and each word ends with a question mark.
Whenever you approach an inquiry-based lesson/laboratory/experiment/project/etc. ask each student/student group to make sure that they ask the questions that are above the board. When it comes time for them to author a response to the questions or present their findings, they can still prepare this product with the questions that they answered.
We want to encourage students to be lifelong learners. I find that this strategy helps to define that for students of any age!
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So what if they fling things at each other? The more we release control, the more used to it they will become. Of course, we do have to provide some guidance and supervision. Through intentional grouping and careful monitoring we can get kids to stay on task and work effectively and efficiently. Like anything else, students have to be trained how to manage themselves during an open-ended inquiry activity. Having some early activities where you can find out as much from a "wrong" answer as you can from a "right" one would be helpful. Students mostly want to please us.
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You know what the big "light bulb" moment was for me?
I'm an organizational freak, I can't stand walking around handing out papers. To me, with my experience, the time that takes is just down time that gives potential behavior problems time to breathe. I smother those as much as possible because it tends to explode rather... yeah. Not pretty.
So, in keeping with my organizational habit, I started putting all of the supplies they need for things on the tables/desks so they were righ there for them... no walking- no downtime. However, just as you'd expect, they couldn't keep their hands off the stuff. This made getting them back on track REALLY hard to do.
and then... Eureka! why am I stopping them from touching stuff? This was a bit like putting a treat on the dog's nose and forcing him to wait for me to give him permission to snap it off, right? So... I let 'em!
Now, I meet them in the hallway, tell them that the directions for what they're supposed to do are (wherever they happen to be: index cards, lab print outs, textbook pages...whatever!) and LET THEM GO! They're happier, I'm not having to redirect insanity...
And I love the phrase "we get to come to your lab today!" Not "we have to come to your lab," or even "we're going to come to your lab." I get, "We GET to come to your lab today!"
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I have to admit that when I first started teaching I had a difficult time doing any type of inquiry lessons. I wanted my class to be quiet, focused, and on task with their assignments. Now that I have been teaching for over 5 years, I realized that having the students interact with their peers to learn is a great strategy to use. They learn how to properly dialogue with each other, learn how to be open-minded, and learn how to become problem solvers. I also realized that when doing any type of inquiry based lesson, as long as the teacher monitors the class while they are going through the process nothing can go wrong. The teacher can redirect students if they are going in the wrong direction or assist them if they come across any problems they are not able to solve on their own. There is a time when teachers must "let their students run wild" with learning. It will definitely be a much better and meaningful experience for the students!
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I agree with the ideas previously posted about how the class can get out of control and not stay on task or students will play with the materials; however, students do need the freedom to explore and discover things. The class becomes more out of control if they are required to sit there and do book work all day because they get bored. It is time for teachers to let their students explore, but also teach them how to make inquiries about things.
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I feel it has a lot to do with the fact that as an educator we have put into plan a series of step by step processes that we want the students to go through, and with inquiry the students do not follow that cook book lab step by step guide line to get to the end result. I feel that as an educator the overwhelming state test always looms over head.
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Loss of control. I believe for primary educators (like myself) some of us are worried about losing control over the management of their class; especially when it comes to Science. Another is lack of learning; meaning that what was the targeted focus of learning has now turned into just 'fun' with not much learned.
Personally, I do enjoy inquiry...I've realized that with younger students, it must be guided inquiry with baby steps to arrive at the outcome. Questioning the students with guided questions, so that they think of targeted questions "themselves." The focus of an experiment may be lost without being explicit at first reminding students of the question they are focusing on and why the experiment is being conducted. Throughout the experiment guided questions to keep them thinking about gathering evidence for the targeted question is important to ask, so the learning doesn't get lost. When the learning is lost, many students are there to just have "fun" and that's when trouble breaks loose. After conducting the experiment, class discussion is vital to pull the students back into the purpose of the experiment and various outcomes they had from the experiment.
Students feel like they "own" their learning when it comes to inquiry, but little do they know some teachers (especially primary) somehow guide them to ask the questions that are needed to be asked and answer the questions appropriately through little prompts/ questioning.
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Kelly brings up a good point, the importance of staying focused on the question the students are trying to investigate. Many times when students get involved in the experiment they lose sight of the reason they are doing the experiment.
One strategy I have used in the past is to ask students to stop while they are investigating and write the question they are trying to answer and what data they have collected that is getting them closer to answering the original question.
Learning Center Online Advisors
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I feel inquiry in the elementary setting takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation. Time due to the fact that in order to set your students for inquiry, we must first model it, identify it, and practice it. Not only is it difficult to have enough time for it but in order for your class as a whole to stay on task would be a whole other challenge in itself.
Inquiry is a goal in the long going list of things we'd like our students to experience for themselves. The best we can do is model and promote it.
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What am amazing conversation. Many of us have contributed. We are rapidly approaching the year anniversary of this dialogue. We have identified and explored the many reasons elementary teachers might shy away from inquiry science.
I wonder if it is not time to begin a new thread...
What Can We do to Help Elementary Teachers Embrace Inquiry?
I have gone through and tried to capture some of the issues we mentioned. I was thinking that maybe we could try talking about each one for awhile and then move on to another issue.
Lets turn this around and try to help teachers.
Why are teachers afraid to release control of inquiry science to their elementary students?
I believe many teachers are afraid to release control of inquiry science to their students because it's something new and is not the "normal" way of learning or teaching. Teachers are used to being the providers with all the information. I believe a lot of teachers think that by incorporating inquiry science, teachers will lose control of the students and give them the power and control of the classroom. Teachers may also be afraid of having their students be off-task and become unstructured. I believe that teachers should become more open-minded and try inquiry science with their students.
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that is a great question because I do wish that teachers would let students do more inquiry science with their students, rather than just the basic "I tell you what to do" It would be very beneficial for them and I think as a teacher you would learn a lot too.
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