Every person is a scientist, whether they know it or not. Science is the study of the natural world. As humans, we all experiment. Our experiments include cooking, trying to find the right partner and even trying to find the right studying habits. Nonetheless, we are all scientists. One important and fundamental aspect of science is inquiry. Inquiry is an important aspect of science and is essential to the continuation of scientific discovery. Scientific inquiry allows students to think and process scientific information differently and helps develop scientific literacy. While inquiry based learning can be applied in all classrooms, it should be practiced specifically in every science classroom. Like many things, scientific inquiry can be taught in many different ways, but the most effective way would be an interactive and engaging way.
Science, by many, is perceived as difficult and sometimes impossible. Individuals perceive science as such because of the type of instruction that they received in school, or lack of such. Many times students aren’t taught the nature of science or scientific inquiry, so they struggle when trying to understand and grasp scientific information. Above all, they are not taught how to think like a scientist. Scientific inquiry refers to the ways in which scientists study in the natural world and propose explanations based on evidence derived from their work. Inquiry also refers to the activities of students in which they develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world (NRC, 2002). Students in all science classrooms should be engaged in scientific inquiry because it provides them the opportunity to practice important science processing skills as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills (Bell, Maeng & Peters, 2010).
There is a systematic approach to using scientific inquiry called the scientific method. The scientific method includes six steps: making an observation, asking questions, formulating a hypothesis, designing and carrying out an experiment, analyzing results, and arriving at a conclusion and communicating your results (SCENE, 2004). These steps act as a framework for students’ thought processes and allow them to think analytically and investigate further.
Scientific Inquiry in my Classroom
As a science educator, I think that it is imperative that scientific inquiry be taught in every science classroom. This is not something that should be taught to students in a single lesson plan, but that should be incorporated in every lesson plan and every aspect of the science classroom. Scientific inquiry should be fun and engaging and at times should be hands on. Far too often educators associate inquiry instruction with hands on activity, however, it doesn’t always have to be. Students can analyze data that has already been created and communicate the results (Bell, Maeng & Peters, 2010).
In my science classroom, I will allow my students the opportunity to create their own experiments, with very few limitations. This gives students the opportunity to be creative and question many different things. Students will be given a few weeks to perform their experiment, but will have to check in with the teacher and submit a hypothesis and questions throughout the experiment. Students will also have to keep a lab notebook that documents all observations. Then students will present their analyzed data to the entire class. I will also allow students to communicate with each other about their experiments, so they can get ideas and questions from different perspectives. To implement scientific inquiry on a daily basis in my classroom, I would have a question at least twice a week for the students that allow them to use one of the six steps of scientific method. Scientific inquiry in my classroom will be both hands on and non-hands on.
Students and Scientific Inquiry
Some science educators many not believe in implementing scientific inquiry in their classrooms because they don’t believe change is necessary. But it is very important for science educators to implement inquiry-based learning and to make sure that their students understand and excel in the six steps of scientific method. One way to know that my students have acquired an understanding of inquiry is by splitting them up into groups and giving them different scientific experiment data. Each group will have to analyze the data and communicate their findings to the class. Another way of knowing that my students understand inquiry is to give them a scientific experiment scenario with only five of the six steps of the scientific method and having the students come up with answers for the missing step. For example, students can be given a journal from Charles Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos Islands with observations, design, results, a hypothesis and a conclusion, but students will have to come up with questions that Darwin may have or could have asked throughout his experiment. Another way of knowing that my students understand inquiry is by testing them. For example, I can generate a test that tests students on the definition of inquiry in a fun way like a cross word puzzle. Students are still being tested, but in an engaging and interactive manner.
It’s fundamental for students to learn and understand scientific inquiry and the six steps of scientific method. These steps allow students to think analytically, process information differently and develop scientific literacy. Like any subject matter or topic, scientific literacy can be taught in many different ways. It should be taught in an engaging and interactive manner, but doesn’t necessarily have to be done as such. Educators should allow students to have fun while learning and allow them to engage other students.
Bell, R., Maeng, J., & Peters, E. (2010, May 11). Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition
Scientific Inquiry and the Nature of Science Task Force Report. Retrieved fromhttp://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CC0QFjAB&url=http://www.vamsc.org/projects/VMSC_Inquiry_and_NOS_White_Paper_5_11_10.doc&ei=Nj9BT_T5Msn0AGy3pTPBw&usg=AFQjCNG5DFTvu1Akg7ai4MnVUlsiYQ2wAw&sig2=FdAgU5hkCiTNdkWgELIoaQ
National Research Council. (2002). Inquiry and the national science education standards: A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press
Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment. (2004). Scientific Method. Retrieved from http://scene.asu.edu/habitat/s_method.html