Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facilitating an inquiry-based science classroom

Facilitating an inquiry-based science classroom

Jackson, D. & Babec, M. (2008). Facilitating and inquiry-based science classroom.Science Scope31(5), 64-67.

This article appeared in the National Science Teacher Association publication, Science Scope in 2008. It addresses common obstacles to implementing inquiry based activities in the science classroom, and suggests ideas on how to minimize them. 

Common obstacles are:

  • The time required to plan and conduct the inquiry
  • The materials and facilities needed for the inquiry
  • Safety issues
  • Student focus and motivation
Tips for overcoming such obstacles included:
  • Using plastic storage boxes for materials related to a given activity
  • Setting up norms for both classroom conduct, safety precautions and expectations of time usage
  • Large digital timer that all students can see to help them self monitor their time
  • Maximize student access to materials
  • Assign roles during group activities
  • Optimize the physical arrangement of the classroom furniture for the particular activity
  • Classroom meetings to deal with issues as they arise
  • Allow for student choice 
  • Emphasize connections between student knowledge and what they will be able to demonstrate conceptually and experientially at the end of the lesson
While the article was a general recap of some basic norms of inquiry based teaching, it was  obviously for a general audience of science teachers and it fell short of satisfactorily addressing the more complex aspects of an inquiry based classroom. For example, it would have been useful to identify some strategies to aid and track student progress in classrooms where students are pursuing their own questions, resulting in multiple threads of inquiry at one time.

1 comment:

Stacey Caillier said...

This is a great summary, and a great critique. I'd love to hear more about the management of simultaneous inquiries as well!

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