Unit 3: Brainstorming


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Driving Question:

1. What are some good resources/strategies for helping me design and implement inquiry-based labs?


3. Share idea & resources on how to incorporate inquiry-based lab activities after individually brainstorming/researching ideas

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

Before We Begin

This is where we begin the preliminary design process. To begin, we are going to look at how to choose a good lab to work with. Ideally, most labs could be recreated to be inquiry activities. But since we are working under the assumption that most of you are new to designing inquiry labs, we will spend a little time choosing the existing lab that you want to work with. You do not have to start from scratch on this design project. In fact, I would like you to start with an existing "cookbook style" lab, and we will work on re-designing it to be more open ended. During this unit, we will also look at some tip, tricks, and general strategies we can use for making labs more exploratory in nature.

3.1 Choosing the Right Lab

INTRODUCTION: Since inquiry is such a broad term, it will be important for us to talk about different levels of inquiry. Although these “levels” are not universal terms, they tend to refer to the level of student choice, openness, or freedom during the lab. During a typical lab, we can think of three different areas during which students can have choice: defining the question/problem, coming up with the procedure, and coming up with/presenting the solution. A low level inquiry activity would only allow students freedom in designing one of those three areas, such as giving the students the question and the procedure, and having students find the solution. A high-level inquiry lab would have students working to define the question, write the procedures, and come up with the solution. The idea would be to increase the level of inquiry throughout the school year. We would not typically start the beginning of year with giving students choice in all three areas. For most of us, our students would not be ready for that. Students tend to be very resistant, and even unsure what to do, because they are used to just following directions for labs. So for the purpose of this class, I would like you to choose a lab where you can allow student freedom in two of the three areas mentioned above. That way we will be able to practice making a medium level inquiry lab. So it will probably be a lab you could use near the end of the year. Once you feel comfortable with this lab, it should be easier to go back and scaffold your other labs with increasing levels of freedom.

Secondly, it is important to choose a lab that you can tie to a real-world scenario. This can probably be done with most labs, but some admittedly are easier to others. Instead of just having students measure random objects, you could set up a scenario where students are trying to design a building and are communicating with scientists who using the metric system. Instead of doing a titration lab just to neutralize an acid and base, you could set up a situation where there is an unknown chemical spill and students are trying to determine what the chemical is and clean it up.

The last thing I want you to think about in terms of choosing a lab to convert to an inquiry lab, is there are certain lab activities you will probably want to keep as more direct instruction types labs. Especially in the beginning of the year, you might want to keep some of the "protocol" labs in place. These are the labs that teach basic skills like dimensional analysis, measuring, and safety procedures.

ACTIVITY: 1. Use the discussion tab at the top of your page to begin to brainstorm one or two labs that you could possibly use to change from a cookbook style lab to an inquiry lab. Please make sure to list the subject, grade level, and title of your lab. Also, I would like you to begin to brainstorm what scenario you could use to set the stage for your lab as well. In the next part of this unit, we will begin to work together on the brainstorming process. 2. Comment on at least one other person's ideas.

3.2 Resources & Strategies


Inquiry continuum.png Question template.png


[Shared Resources]


Hermann, R. S., & Miranda, R. J. (2010). A template for open inquiry. Science Teacher, 77(8), 26-30.

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