I’ve seen this infographic several times on Twitter and I’ve even shared it via my Twitter feed. This infographic provides a clear, concise visual regarding the concept of inquiry. Currently, in education there is a strong push for inquiry based teaching and learning. Inquiry is something that I try to integrate into my lessons on a regular basis as I feel it pushes students to ask why and search for answers (developing a path, testing the path, evaluating the path and developing a new path, retesting, etc.). Essentially it is a circle of asking questions, conducting tests to answer questions and formulating new questions, which is conducive to a student centered learning environment. Personally, one of my goals is for my students to leave my classroom having authentically experienced the inquiry process as well as developed critical thinking skills. I believe it is these skills that are transferrable to anything they choose to do in life and these skills are crucial to our students education.
In my science 10 class, I had my students develop their own science experiment (related to physics). In this task students were asked to formulate a physics based question, design a procedure to test it, conduct the experiment, record results, report the results and then analyze their process. When analyzing their process, students were asked to reflect on what worked, what didn’t work and what they would do next time to improve their experiment. It is vital to student learning that they see that science is not perfect and it does not work out all of the time, this is why society is continually asking questions and seeking new answers.
I also had my students engage in a “uniform motion lab” where they used stop watches and remote control cars. They drove the remote control cars down the hall, which are next to impossible to drive uniformly, and chased after the car with a stop watch to record the time at various intervals. Needless to say, their data was less than desirable. However, the purpose behind this was to challenge the students to ask, “Why didn’t this work? What could be done differently next time?” This proved to be very successful and students were able to see inherent errors in the set up of the lab and design a better one.
In CHEM 20, in the gases unit for one of our labs students will be given materials and a guiding question. The challenge in this lab is to determine a path that answers the problem. Although they are not formulating the overarching question of the lab, they are asking questions throughout the activity that will lead them to the final result. I expect that many students will struggle through this process, of asking questions, formulating a procedure, conducting their experiment and modifying it to ensure it answers the question to the best of their ability.
Through all of these experiences, students are being challenged to ask questions of themselves and of science, to use theoretical knowledge to explain their empirical observations, to dig deep and develop a strong understanding of concepts. The skills that students learn through inquiry are
- how to ask questions
- how to search for answers
- how to test ideas for validity
- how to reassess and retest
and are essentially critical thinking skills, which are all unbelievably valuable as students progress through school and life. Although I have said this before, if when a student leaves my room they have these skills but forget the trends of electronegativity or the parts of an atom, they will have had a successful semester. They will have grown as individuals to become contributing members of society with the ability to think for themselves; this is my goal for my students.
Until next time,