Unit 3: Brainstorming
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 tips, 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 but 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 important thing is to think through the concepts and content you wants students to learn, and them frame those idea around an engaging and relevant situation.
The last thing I want you to think about in terms of choosing a lab to convert is the lab activities you will probably want to keep as more direct instruction type 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 this 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
INTRODUCTION: In this part of Unit 3, you will go through the process of gathering and sharing resources. There are so many great tips and strategies out there. One of my favorite resources is the publication Science Teacher by the National Science Teacher Association. Below you will find two images taken from two great articles. The first is from Hermann & Miranda (2010), and Figure 2 is from Volkmann & Abell (2003). These images provide some very practical advice for creating open inquiry labs. I will be using these templates for my example lab in the next unit. This does not, however, represent the only way to design inquiry labs. Read on for the instruction for your next activity. The two article referenced above (from which I got these figures) are linked below should you find them helpful. They are two of my favorites in terms of giving practical advice for inquiry labs!
ACTIVITY: For this activity, our class as a whole will be creating a shared document of resources. That way we will be creating, in essence, a database of resources that fellow teachers have found helpful. Your task is to find at least two resources. These can be books, website, or article. You will be providing the sources and an annotation for the sources. Your annotation should include what you found to be helpful as well as any content/grade infomation.
Hermann, R. S., & Miranda, R. J. (2010). A template for open inquiry. Science Teacher, 77(8), 26-30.
Volkmann, M., & Abell, S. (2003). Rethinking laboratories: Tools for converting cookbook labs into inquiry. Science Teacher, 38-41.