Here is a brief run-down of what I'll be talking about.
Principles of Inquiry: Using Interactive Notebooks in Formal Education Programs
(Insert tantalizing mystery box activity here. Yeah, you know you wanna go to ASP now)
First off, who am I to be giving this talk? I am a teacher by trade, having done my time in middle school, working mostly with underserved and under motivated populations. My work as formal education coordinator for SDO had given me the opportunity to apply the techniques I learned from classroom teaching to larger scale programs.
The term "inquiry" is wearing thin in education today. Teachers are tired of hearing it, every workshop has it in its title, and school administrators won't approve a curriculum or activity without it. But what is it? We EPO folk are lucky in that we have the time to develop resources. Teachers do what we do, and often better, in hours if not minutes. So how can we stay cutting edge and relevant for the teachers on the front lines?
Here is everything you need to know but were afraid to ask about science inquiry in one minute or less:
Science inquiry in education is based on the principles of brain-based learning:
The search for meaning is innate. At it’s core the search for meaning is purpose and value driven. This was explained by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs, thus the search for meaning ranges from “What will I eat, how will I be safe?” to “Where do I fit in?” and “How can I contribute?” The search for meaning in science can be stimulated by questioning, hypothesizing, and by exploring unexpected results.
The brain is designed to find connections. An effective science inquiry experience is rich in authenticity and purpose, clearly connecting to other aspects of both science and life. Students will retain and be able to recall facts and information easily when they are linked to multiple sources.
Students who participate in true science inquiry take ownership of their learning. Introducing challenge and creating a sense of wonder are easy and efficient ways to engage the mind. But remember: Just because something is “Hands on” doesn’t mean it’s “Minds on.” Inquiry doesn’t always mean student directed, open ended research projects. Students learn in a variety of ways, each modality needs to be included to engage as many students as possible.
So how can we apply this in every single lesson/activity/curriculum we create? The answer is you can’t. You’d go nuts. But you can structure your resources in a way that lends it’s self to the creation of such products. Here’s how:
The ABC’s of Inquiry:
Activity Before Concept. (ABC) Engage students in the concept to be learned WITHOUT priming them first. Don’t tell them what you are going to teach them, let them figure it out for themselves. Through discussion following the activity the concept can be teased out. What was in their subconscious will emerge and become a solid concept that is not only connected to their prior knowledge, but is now a rewarding “Aha!” moment.
Lets see this in action: (Insert ball bouncing activity here, you really ought to come to ASP…)
Concept Before Vocabulary: (CBV) Explore the concept. As you explore students will realize a NEED for the words to accurately describe it. Identify the need, then give them the tools. No more rote memorization of vocabulary, the meaning and application of words is now owned by the students.
Lets see this one in action too: (Metals. Heavy ones. Gotta be there to see it…)
So why the ABC’s? To engage, to wonder, to challenge, to link. Design your resources with this in mind and you can’t avoid the “inquiry.”
To further put this into practice, consider this format: The Interactive Notebook
Another new buzz term, but entirely worth the accolade it receives, is “Interactive Notebook.” The interactive notebook goes beyond traditional classroom record keeping. It provides a home and structure for the connections being made in an inquiry-based classroom or program.
“Predict, Method, Live-it”
The “Predict” portion of your notebook or lesson is to engage your students and to tap into their prior knowledge. This section should be student driven. There is no right answer.
The “Method” section is the meat of the concept. It could be notes, an investigation, lab results, or drawings. It is driven by the teacher to whatever degree is required by the lesson. More structured for “directed inquiry” and more open ended for “true inquiry.”
The “Live-it” portion is the wrap up, the application and the conclusion. It asks students to prove that they’ve learned by applying the concept. Higher order thinking tasks should be assigned, such as evaluation, application or synthesis. This section should be student driven as well, with products being evaluated by the teacher.
Wanna try it out? See how it works? (Again, ASP attendees have it all…)
So why design lessons using the interactive notebook format? Predict, Method and Live-it are analogous to engagement, connection and meaning. (Also to the 5 E’s, but I think that’s copyrighted or something.) The format lends it’s self to the development of inquiry and student centered learning.
Lets try using it, but only if there is time. By now my 45 minutes may be up.
Concluding Thoughts: Application – These principles and strategies can be used in teacher workshops, classroom visits, curriculum development.
Science is not a foreign subject – its internal to every student. Exploration is as natural as breathing. The focus needs to stop being on creating the next Einstein, but on showing EVERY student that science is a welcomed part of their every day lives. Creating a scientifically literate generation is key to the survival of our society. Scientifically literate people make good decisions, they vote, they contribute. Developing that subconscious process will improve their lives as well as society as a whole.