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Learning Science Through Inquiry
Implementing Inquiry
Inquiry FAQ
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Science Learning Plan Guidelines

These guidelines provide a framework to implement a full open-inquiry investigation with your students. (Developed by Lisa M. Nyberg, Ph.D.)

Step 1

1. Pick a science content area that you are currently teaching, or will teach very soon, that you will use to begin your science inquiry investigation.

2. If you are using a school-adopted curriculum, look at the scope and sequence of the content presentation. Determine possible areas where you can implement an inquiry investigation with your students.

3. Begin to gather resources on your selected science topic. Use the library and/or Internet search engines for young people, such as Yahooligans http://www.yahooligans.com and science Web links listed in Find Out More, to spark your thinking about possible investigations on the selected topic.

4. Think about the modifications that might be needed in your classroom environment and/or presentation style to facilitate inquiry investigations. Think about how to enrich the learning community in your classroom. See Workshop 2 for ideas.

Step 2

1. Provide your students with some experiences with your selected science topic. Examples: Bring in materials (natural or man-made) for students to explore, or show a video on the topic. Make books on the topic available for review. Pre-select and bookmark Internet sites that are developmentally appropriate for your students, and then let students explore them. Set up a field trip if possible. These types of activities may help stimulate interest in the topic and may spark questions in the students' minds. Have students record any questions that arise during these explorations. See Workshop 3 for ideas.

2. Complete the "K" and "L" portions of a KWL chart to determine the students' level of understanding on the topic area. Remember not to correct misconceptions during the "K" portion of the discussion ("What do you know about_________?"). When asking for questions ("What do you want to know about_________?") watch for nonverbal signals from your class. Do many students look up, turn toward the questioner, etc., when the question is asked or does the question only seem of interest to the one student asking the question? This observation will help you prioritize areas of inquiry investigation.

Step 3

1. Think about how you will facilitate the students' investigation. Do you want students to work individually to investigate, or do you want them to work in groups? If groups are selected, will you determine the learning teams, or will they be self-selected? Will the students all investigate the same question or will they investigate more than one question raised during their initial explorations? See Workshop 4 for ideas.

2. Brainstorm with students possible resources needed to conduct investigations.

Step 4

1. Design a protocol for the investigation. What will the criteria for evaluation be? How will students collect and record data? See Workshop 5 for ideas.

2. Provide time for the students to conduct their investigations.

Step 5

1. Determine a format for the students to share their investigation results. Based on the protocol for the investigation, you may schedule a "jigsaw" type presentation, in which individual students or learning teams share their "piece" of the puzzle and contribute to the body of knowledge for the group.

2. As the students share information, have them record new questions that arise. Look for patterns in the information to help students put the pieces together and process for meaning. Show value and respect for the student contributions. Celebrate their discoveries. Model the wonder and curiosity of a life-long learner. See Workshop 6 for ideas.

Step 6

1. Based on the protocol for the presentation, you have set the stage for assessment. Examine the quality of student work products. What modifications could you make to improve the quality of student work? What documentation do you have to demonstrate student understanding of the content area? See Workshop 7 for ideas.

2. All students need a way to successfully contribute to the class body of knowledge. Think about the demographics of the population of students you serve (ex., English Language Learners, wide-range of developmental levels, students with special needs, etc.). With the topic you have just investigated, what menu of assessment options could you offer students in the future? Think about multiple ways that students can "show what they know."

Step 7

1. With your selected science topic as a focus, how could you comfortably bridge the topic to other subject areas (reading, writing, mathematics, etc.)? Think of authentic interdisciplinary connections. Example: Write a letter to the government recommending rainforest preservation. Provide the participants with an assortment of possibilities to stimulate their thinking.

2. Try at least one connected interdisciplinary lesson in three subject areas. Example: Reading, Writing, Mathematics. See Workshop 8 for ideas.

3. Problem-solve some areas of modification that you would like to improve in your next inquiry investigation. What would you change in staging the learning environment? What classroom management procedures would you change? How will you begin your next inquiry investigation? What topic will you choose?

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