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Inquiry in the National Science Education Standards: From Structured Exercises to Guided Learning Experiences to Open Ended Research


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Title: Inquiry in the National Science Education Standards: From Structured Exercises to Guided Learning Experiences to Open Ended Research

Inquiry in the National Science Education
Standards From Structured Exercises to Guided
Learning Experiences to Open Ended Research
  • John T. Snow
  • College of Geosciences
  • The University of Oklahoma

National Research Council, 1996 National
Science Education Standards
National, not federal A consensus
document Reform-oriented, idealistic Controversi
al ? inquiry based Elevates the Earth and Space
Sciences to the same level as the Physical and
Life Sciences
  • To better appreciate the natural world and the
    events that occur within it -- requires knowledge
    and understanding
  • To lay foundation for careers in the designed
    world of a modern technological society may
    influence career choices scientific
    understanding necessary to appreciate how things
    work in the modern world
  • To contribute in an informed manner to personal,
    professional, and societal decisions -- requires
    development of habits of mind, skills, and
    experiences applicable to the formulation and
    solution of problems

A scientifically literate individual who ...
  • knows relevant parts of the accumulated body of
    knowledge about the natural world (what
    scientists know content ? facts, theories,
  • understands that science is a systematic method
    for exploring the natural world (how scientists
    have come to know what they know -- processes,
    methods, critical thinking appreciation of risk
    and uncertainty) and
  • applies the knowledge and processes of science
    to the solution of real-world problems (using a
    scientific approach to solving problems arguing
    from data estimating risk in decisions due to
    the uncertainty appreciates and looks for
    unintended consequences)

What is Inquiry?
  • Hard to define precisely, multiple meanings
  • Elements of scientific inquiry ? informed,
    structured, empirical
  • Stating a problem in a testable fashion
  • Designing an experiment collection and critical
    analysis of data
  • Reasoning and drawing conclusions from the data
    conclusions placed in context of what was
    previously known
  • Determining and stating uncertainty
  • Pedagogical inquiry ? scientific inquiry
  • Age appropriate
  • Structured, guided to attain specific learning

Can the National Science Education Standards be
Implemented without using Inquiry in the
Yes but most of the reform element is
lost See Science as Inquiry sections in
NSES K-4 (p. 121) 5-8 (p. 143) 9-12 (p. 173)
Using Inquiry, How Should Science Be Taught?
  • Shift the focus of instructional activity from
    teaching to student learning
  • Curriculum and materials lay out a sequence of
    guided inquiries, presenting factual material
    only as needed assessment tools focus on
    understanding of processes
  • Role of the instructor shifts from presentation
    of rote material to leading/mentoring students
    through a series of rediscovery experiments

Teaching is nothing more (and nothing less) than
a conscious attempt to structure experiences so
that desired themes emerge out of guided
manipulation of realistic data in compelling
situations. P.J. Gersmehl, 1995
Using Inquiry, How Should Science Be Taught?
  • Emphasize
  • In-depth understanding of a relative few
    fundamental elements (balance of processes with
    facts ? less is indeed more)
  • Quantitative problem solving
  • Critical thinking, reasoning from data, and
    evaluating of new scientific findings
  • Decision making in a scientific context
  • Applying understandings to new situations

Less is More
The test of a successful education is not the
amount of knowledge that a pupil takes away from
a school, but his appetite to know and his
capacity to learn. If the school sends out
children with the desire for knowledge and some
idea of how to acquire and use it, it will have
done its work. Richard Livingstone, 1941
Impediments to Using Inquiry in Teaching
  • Lack of understanding/acceptance of
  • Less is More
  • Time
  • Cannot approach inquiry as enrichment
  • Curricula and supporting materials
  • Teacher Preparation
  • Traditional focus on grade-level, fact-based
  • Current national desire is to produce well-paid
    technicians, not scholars, scientists, or artists

Illustrative Examples from the NSES - Vignettes
Science Olympiad (p. 39) Musical Instruments (p.
47) The Insect and the Spider (p. 80) Weather (p.
130) Weather Instruments (p. 136) Pendulums (p.
148) Funny Water (p. 130) The Egg Drop (p.
162) Fossils (p. 182) Photosynthesis (p. 194) The
Solar System (p. 215) See also Analysis of
Scientific Inquiry (p. 202)
Further Examples
Young students (K 4) structured exercises
collecting and classifying rocks, leaves, insects
around a stream Orient on hands-on work (collect
both quantitative and qualitative data) Middle
School (5 8) guided learning experience
investigating a stream and its
watershed Emphasize interpretation and
application of visual materials (maps, imagery,
plots) reasoning from data Capstone ESS
experience at grade 8? High School (9 12)
open-ended research project stream water
chemistry and relationship to underlying geology
and land use in the watershed Establish relevance
of scientific knowledge and way of thinking to
the lives of the students, now and in the
future Capstone ESS experience at grade 12?
possibility of building on physics, chemistry,
The Challenge
Devising inquiry based curricula and materials
that in the available time communicate the
essential content and skills required to meet the
demands of standardized testing while providing
valid research experiences
A Few Words About Technology
  • Use technology to complement, supplement, and
    extend rather than simply replicate
  • Use technology only where it enhances student
    learning in the classroom, laboratory, and field
  • Ingest, assimilation, analysis, and display of
    large spatial and/or temporal data sets
  • Imagery to document events
  • Interactive modeling of the Earth System
  • systems thinking ? problem solving
  • what if games ? policy, strategy

A Few Recommendations
  • Classroom, laboratory, and field activities
    should encourage active inquiry, and illuminate
    societal issues and the connections between
    scientific and non-scientific disciplines
  • Place principles and problem-solving methods in
    the context of the local environment (rural,
    urban, )
  • Ensure that curriculum materials reflect the
    diversity of the population, locally, nationally,
    and globally

John T. Snow ( http//geosciences.ou.
edu College of Geosciences The University of
Oklahoma Sarkeys Energy Center, Suite 710 100 E.
Boyd Street Norman, Oklahoma 73019 USA Telephone
405-325-3101 FAX 405-325-3148
(No Transcript)
Key Concepts in the Earth and Space Sciences
  • Formation, continuous co-evolution over deep
    time, present day structure
  • Processing of energy through the system and
    recycling of material within the system
  • Interactions and interconnections between
    geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and the biota
  • Humanity as a element of the System

The Challenge develop age-appropriate inquiry
based exercises that foster in students an
understanding of the components, evolution, and
functioning of the Earth System
Charge to Material Developers and Curriculum
  • Use Earth System Science as a unifying framework
    to demonstrate the interrelationships between all
    components of the Earth System and humankind
  • Implement best practices to educate all
    constituencies, including groups currently under
    represented in science