What's Inquiry Got to do with it?


               Throughout my teaching career I have always gravitated toward instructional approaches that are indentified as inquiry strategies. Although definitions vary, the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) defines scientific inquiry as "the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world". In undergrad we used Experience, Pattern, and Explanation Tables in which students were prompted with an experience for which they were to identify patterns from the experience and the assessment component would be based on the students’ explanation of these patterns. During my first few years as a secondary educator I worked with a team of educators that developed curriculum based on Brain-Mind Learning which centered around the concept that “all learning is physiological and as a result the brain searches for meaning based on the patterns it develops through processes that occur both consciously and unconsciously” (Caine, n.d.). Recently I have become involved with Modeling Instruction in which “the emphasis on conceptual understanding, how the laboratory can be used to elicit models rather than validate lecture, and the development of a classroom culture designed to encourage students to make and evaluate models” (Dukerich, 2015 ). Although each methodology has its own approach, they are loosely associated with inquiry-based learning. Inquiry is to education as robust is to business, a buzz word that just won’t seem to be properly defined within its context.

                Instead of focusing on an instructional label, why don’t we focus on what we are trying to accomplish with our students? Our classrooms should be a platform for students to actively explain science practices using evidence and no matter how you define your instruction, we cannot deny our students this opportunity. With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, our students will be assessed based on performance expectations that not only link disciplinary knowledge, but scientific practice, and crosscutting concepts as well. “These performance expectations guide the development of assessments: when a standard encompasses all three strands, then so must the assessment. It will no longer be possible to meet a standard solely by recall of factual knowledge.” (Cooper, 2013).

                Reflecting on Sarah Kong’s recent blog post, I urge educators to identify and discuss the environment they provide for their students to develop and explain ideas. How do we make chemistry fascinating for our students? How do we provide them with genuine experiences that promote active student dialogue about the natural world? What evidence do we have that these experience are in fact assisting in a student’s learning? Please feel free to post your perspective and strategies so we can develop a conversation on effective instructional strategies.

Works Cited

Caine, G. a. (n.d.). Brain/Mind Principles. Retrieved from Caine Learning: http://www.cainelearning.com/brain-mind-principles/

Cooper, M. M. (2013). Chemistry and the Next Generation Science Standards. Journal of Chemical Education.

Dukerich, L. (2015 ). Applying Modeling Instruction to High School Chemistry To Improve Students’ Conceptual Understanding. Journal of Chemical Education.

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington DC, USA: National Academy Press.