Originally from Austin, Texas, I have been in upstate New York for the past six years. I live in a small town in the southern Adirondacks with my husband, seven month old little girl, and two cats. I have my initial certification in physics and chemistry and am employed by a school here in the Capitol Region as a high school physics teacher. Currently I am out on maternity leave to finish up my Master's in Curriculum Development and Instructional Design. I am also working part time for a skincare company called Rodan + Fields. One day I would love to open up a little coffee shop and sell my favorite southern breakfast food--breakfast tacos!
The purpose of this course is to give science teachers some very practical ways in which they can begin to transform their typical "cookbook styles" labs into lab activities which are more open-ended and inquiry-based.
Questions to be answered are:
-Why is inquiry important?
-How do I scaffold my lab activities?
-What are the benefits to using inquiry?
By the end of this course, teachers should be able to apply the tips and techniques given in the course in order to modify their own instruction.
1. Instructional Problem
Inquiry in a term used often in education today, especially in science education. New York’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) follow the guidelines set by A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) which states that “students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which such ideas are developed” (p. 218). Many new teachers, however, are not sufficiently practiced implementing scientific inquiry in the classroom (Ozel & Luft, 2013). Many teachers are not adequately prepared in inquiry methods because they are not typically taught that way themselves. Additionally, as Hunter (2014) pointed out “inquiry often becomes secondary to survival during the first arduous years of practice” (p. 380). NGSS outlines eight essential practices for students that include asking questions, developing models, planning and carrying out observations, and constructing explanations—all components of inquiry (NGSS Lead States, 2013). As is often the case when new standards are implemented, teachers are left wondering how best to implement them. This seems to be the case with inquiry and problem based learning.
National Research Council. (2012) A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Appendix F. Washington, DC: National Research Council. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/
Ozel, M., & Luft, J. A. (2013). Beginning secondary science teachers' conceptualization and enactment of inquiry-based instruction. School Science & Mathematics, 113(6), 308- 316. doi:10.1111/ssm.12030
2. What is to be learned?
Throughout this course, participants will learn how to gradually acclimate their students to the practice of inquiry through scaffolding lab activities as the school year progresses. Participants will also explore what an inquiry lab really is and why it is important. Thirdly, participants will be given some practical tips on how to incorporate inquiry labs into their busy schedules while also brainstorming their own new ideas.
Analysis of the Learner and Context
- The course is designed to appeal to secondary science teachers of all experience levels. Although the class is more geared to those who have little to no training on inquiry learning, all experience levels can both find and contribute something useful to this course. Participants will have varying degrees of familiarity with conducting inquiry activities in addition to varying technological abilities.
- The inquiry activities course participants will be creating are aimed at classroom use. Although many of the same principles will apply to online learning, the focus audience of this course is teachers who teach face-to-face labs.
- No pre-requisite skills needed.
- Participants will learn content within this mini-course, in an asynchronous online environment. Delivery of the content will require the use of a computer and a stable Internet connection. Although the course can be taken at any point in time, ample opportunities are provided for student-teacher and student-student interaction.
After completion of this course, participants should be able to:
- Reflect on why inquiry is important
- Demonstrate a positive attitude and increased comfort levels of implementing inquiry-based activities through self-assessments
- Share idea & resources on how to incorporate inquiry-based lab activities after individually brainstorming/researching ideas
- Develop their own inquiry lab activity based on an existing step-by-step lab
Course participants will be able to:
1. Reflect on why inquiry is important
1.1 Explain the properties of inquiry
1.2 List some benefits of inquiry-based learning
2. Demonstrate a positive attitude and increased comfort levels of implementing inquiry-based activities
2.1 List some of the common drawbacks to an inquiry-based approach
2.2 Share personal experiences with inquiry-learning
3.1 List current classroom activities that might lend themselves well to inquiry
3.2 Find 1-2 online resources for inquiry-based science activities or tips
4. Develop their own inquiry lab activity based on an existing step-by-step lab
4.1 Familiarize yourself with a good example of an inquiry activity
4.2 Create a draft & get feedback