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  Strategies for Promoting Scientific Inquiry Skills in the K-12 Curriculum
Students Working on an Experiment.jpg

Topic Purpose and Overview

The title of this course is Strategies for Promoting Scientific Inquiry Skills in the K-12 Curriculum. The purpose of this mini-course is to encourage educators to promote the use of scientific inquiry in the classroom by looking at examples of experiments/lessons in the K-12 curriculum. This will allow the learner to develop new ways to use scientific inquiry in their own classroom. The example experiments that I will be presenting will directly align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the specific standard that each example focuses on will be provided if possible. In the first unit of this mini-course, I will provide a brief introduction to the NGSS. In the final three units, I will breakdown the scientific inquiry skills for elementary students (Unit 2), middle grade students (Unit 3) and older students (Unit 4).

Prerequisites and Learning Outcomes

Before beginning this course, the learner should be able to identify basic scientific inquiry skills in elementary-level, middle school level, and high school level lessons.

By the end of this mini-course, the reader will have learned:

  1. The scientific inquiry skills that students in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 should acquire.
  2. The best practices for developing scientific inquiry through interactive activities.
  3. How to promote the use of scientific inquiry skills in their K-12 classrooms.
  4. How to review Next Generation Science Standards to identify scientific inquiry and concept standards appropriate for planning.
  5. The foundations of scientific knowledge and how to develop deeper understanding in the classroom.

Needs Assessment and Learner Analysis

The Instructional Problem
Science teachers need to ensure that they are teaching their students to develop an understanding of the content, rather than basic memorization of facts, laws, and equations. Looking back on my own experiences as a student in the science classroom, my teachers put an emphasis on identifying and reciting information, designing model diagrams, and mechanical testing using the scientific method. In the textbook Powerful Learning: What we Know About Teaching for Understanding, the author Darling-Hammond identifies the importance of educating our students through hands-on experiments and lessons that promote scientific inquiry, rather than teaching for the sole purpose of passing the exam. Although memorizing facts to recite or recognize them later is a successful test-preparation strategy in many science classrooms, it hardly constitutes knowing or understanding science where the connections among the facts are more important than the facts themselves. (Darling-Hammond, Pg. 156, 2008).

Students will enter the classroom having some previous knowledge of the content that will be covered, and in order to address student misconceptions, they will need to be encouraged to reassess their previous understandings in order to further develop their knowledge. Knowledge frequently involves facts and definitions, but understanding involves concepts and reaches conclusions. Memorization alone is not sufficient, because understanding also needs to be acquired. Many students and teachers mistakenly feel that memorized knowledge can substitute for understanding, but this is almost never true. (Dr. M, 2014). Teaching for memorization rather than teaching for understanding is still an issue in the K-12 science curriculum. This instructional problem in science education will be my focus in this design project.


The Nature of What is to be Learned
Educators, instructional designers, and others who are reading this design project will learn different ways to add scientific inquiry skills into their classroom, whether it be a class dedicated entirely to science or an elementary classroom that covers content from all subjects. Learners will be provided with scientific inquiry experiments/lessons that will align with one or more topics that are covered in the science curriculum. Learners will not only become more knowledgeable about how to promote scientific inquiry skills themselves, but they should also be able to use what they've learned from this project and apply it in their classroom.


Learner Analysis
Using the typical framework of a school district as a guide, the learners who will most benefit from this project will be science teachers, instructional designers (specifically for science curriculum), the head of the science department, and elementary school educators who teach science as part of their curriculum. I expect that a large majority of the learners viewing this project will already have a general idea of what scientific inquiry skills look like in the classroom. However, elementary school teachers may or may not have a background in science, depending on their focus area. To address this knowledge gap, in Units 2, 3, and 4, I will begin the unit by outlining the scientific inquiry skills that K-12 students should achieve based on their grade level.


The Realities of the Instructional Context
The instruction that will be provided in this mini-course will be delivered entirely online. Therefore, those who are viewing this course have free-will to choose the location in which they will view the mini-course, but they will need to have a computer (desktop or laptop), iPad, Chromebook, or any other device that is connected to the Internet and has access to YouTube. It is also suggested that you use headphones when watching the videos, and turn on the captions if they are available. The resources provided in this course will be come from textbooks, articles, and instructional videos.


Addressing the Instructional Problem and the Proposed Solution
Throughout this project, participants will see the benefits that promoting scientific inquiry skills can have on student understanding in comparison to a "memorization for test-preparation" approach to science education. Through example experiments and lessons, participants will become familiar with different ways that they can teach scientific inquiry skills to their students. Research comparing students taught through a "traditional" fashion of memorization and recitation of facts on high-stakes tests to students taught in an inquiry-based fashion emphasizing connections among concepts finds that students in inquiry classrooms outperform those in traditional classrooms. (Darling-Hammond, Pg. 156, 2008). In this mini-course you will learn that developing scientific inquiry skills is more beneficial for learners than a "teaching for memorization" approach to science education.


My Design Project Goals
The goal of this project is to help teachers, instructional designers, and other learners gain confidence in promoting scientific inquiry skills that can be developed in the classroom by looking at example lessons and experiments. At the end of this project, the learner will be able to confidently incorporate these skills into their science curriculum.

Performance Objectives

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Identify the core components of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Identify the scientific inquiry skills that K-12 students should acquire in their perspective grade levels.
  • Determine the reasons for developing scientific inquiry skills in the classroom.
  • Identify how the teachers in each example promoted the use of scientific inquiry skills with their students.
  • Identify how the teachers in each example promoted a deeper level of understanding of science with their students.
  • Identify how the teachers in each example promoted student engagement, focus, and collaboration.
  • Reflect on and self-assess his or her own strategies for incorporating scientific inquiry skills in their classroom.
  • Reflect on new strategies for promoting scientific inquiry skills in their curriculum.

Task Analysis

Each unit title is a link, which will take you directly to that section of the mini-course.

Unit 1: An Introduction to Next Generation Science Standards

  1. The learner will define the core components of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  2. The learner will understand how NGSS can be beneficial to students in the K-12 curriculum.
  3. The learner will name the eight practices of science and engineering from A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education.
  4. The learner will be engaged in wanting to learn more about how NGSS can be used in their classroom/curriculum.

Unit 2: Scientific Inquiry Skills for Elementary Students

  1. The learner will be able to identify basic scientific inquiry skills in elementary-level lessons. Prerequisite
  2. The learner will view several videos of different types of scientific inquiry skills being used in elementary school classrooms to engage students in the lesson.
  3. The learner will see how scientific inquiry skills benefit students in grades K-4 by watching real-life videos.
  4. The learner will understand different ways of promoting the use of scientific inquiry skills in grade K-4 classrooms.
  5. The learner will self-assess how the skills presented in the videos could be beneficial in their own elementary classroom/curriculum.

Unit 3: Scientific Inquiry Skills for Middle Grade Students

  1. The learner will be able to identify basic scientific inquiry skills in middle grade level science lessons. Prerequisite
  2. The learner will view several videos of different types of scientific inquiry skills being used in middle school classrooms to engage students in the lesson.
  3. The learner will see how scientific inquiry skills benefit students in grades 5-8 by watching real-life videos.
  4. The learner will understand different ways of promoting the use of scientific inquiry skills in grade 5-8 science classrooms/lessons.
  5. The learner will self-assess how the skills presented in the videos could be beneficial in their own middle grade science classroom/curriculum.

Unit 4: Scientific Inquiry Skills for Older Students

  1. The learner will be able to identify basic scientific inquiry skills in high school level science lessons. Prerequisite
  2. The learner will view several videos of different types of scientific inquiry skills being used in high school science classrooms to engage students in the lesson.
  3. The learner will see how scientific inquiry skills benefit students in grades 9-12 by watching real-life videos.
  4. The learner will understand different ways of promoting the use of scientific inquiry skills in grade 9-12 science classrooms.
  5. The learner will self-assess how the skills presented in the videos could be beneficial in their own high school science classroom/curriculum.

Curriculum Map

Curriculum Map

Mini-Course Units

The following link will direct you to the homepage for the Strategies for Promoting Scientific Inquiry Skills in the K-12 Curriculum mini-course:

Danielle Greene's Mini-Course

References and Resources

Images: All nature photography in this portfolio and mini-course is my own work. All other images are referenced here.

Darling-Hammond, L., Barron, B., Pearson, P. D., Schoenfeld, A. H., Cervetti, G. N., Chen, M., . . . Tilson, J. L. (2008). Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Dr. M. (2014, June 12). A Large Problem in Science Education: Memorization is not Enough, and is not the Same as Understanding! Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://dr-monsrs.net/2014/06/12/a-large-problem-in-science-education-memorization-is-not-enough-and-is-not-the-same-as-understanding/

Kelly, M. (2019, May 19). Image: Students Working on an Experiment. Begin the School Day With These Science Warm Ups. Retrieved September 12, 2020, from https://www.thoughtco.com/science-class-question-answer-topics-8191

Next Generation Science Standards. (2020, September 03). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.nextgenscience.org/

Scientific Inquiry Skills for Elementary Students; Scientific Inquiry Skills for Middle Grade Students; Scientific Inquiry Skills for Older Students. (2020). In NYSTCE Earth Science (008) Test Secrets Study Guide: NYSTCE Exam Review for the New York State Teacher Certification Examinations (pp. 38-39). Mometrix Media Llc. '