Friday, November 17, 2017

The Question That Drives My Thinking

"What am I currently doing that the students could be doing?"

When I consider the art of teaching through scientific inquiry, this is the question that drives my thinking.

With the shift in the new curriculum towards inquiry learning, many teachers are struggling with what that looks like. Often teachers I work with have fantastic activities they have developed over the years for teaching specific science concepts. Now they are wondering if they have to throw out these great activities and start over.

But often it is just a small change that can transform the activity. Transferring ownership and responsibility of learning to the students. Here is one example about types of rocks. Here is another example about things that float. In each case, taking away something the teacher would normally do and transferring it to the students completely transforms the activity and opens up opportunities for questioning, exploration, experimental design, and student thinking.

Recently I worked with a small group of Surrey elementary teachers. We explored this question: What makes a good inquiry activity? Here are some of our ideas:

There are some wonderful ideas here. My favourites are productive confusion and thinking skills.

Sometimes, even these aspects of inquiry are not enough. One teacher shared an amazing activity she does with her students about the skeletal system using actual bones from a local butcher shop. She was excited about the activity but was unsure if it was truly inquiry. The activity met many of the criteria we generated that are shown in the picture above.

But, the teacher still did most of the explaining and demonstrating using the bones. After a quick discussion, we decided to get the students to observe the bones and explain to the teacher what they were seeing. And suddenly, all the questioning, observing, exploration and thinking belongs to the students.

"What are you currently doing that the students could be doing?"


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