Making the case for student inquiry

Making the case for Inquiry-

When I chose to take my experience as a scientist into the classroom to help mold a new generation of scientists, I was motivated by the excitement surrounding student inquiry experiences. I will never forget my students’ first big lab exploring climate change, skin cells, and the effectiveness of sunscreen.

Over the last two decades the word inquiry has been morphed to mean any number of things, from one of those dreaded cookbook labs to an open-ended project that usually has parents scouring Google for project ideas. If we look at the Science Practices, it is abundantly clear that the NRC framework and NGSS call on educators to incorporate inquiry into science education rather than leaving it siloed on its own. Our students need to become proficient in the Science Practices; in turn, this will help them master new science content and enable critical thinking, which is necessary in order to have an informed citizenry.

At its core, inquiry requires students to ‘Ask Questions’ or create hypotheses. Inquiry may not be a step-by-step prescribed process, but if students are unable to identify an independent variable, dependent variable, or explain the relationship between the two, then there is work to be done in order to assist the student in becoming proficient in the science practices. Understanding how to write a hypothesis is much more than being able to answer a multiple choice question as to which word in a sentence is the independent variable. Students must be given multiple opportunities to experiment with various hypotheses and to learn from their mistakes. With the time and funding constraints facing many classrooms across our country, it is simply not possible to provide students with the number of opportunities that they need in order to master the Science Practices. Therefore, our goal with Inq-ITS labs is to help teachers weave inquiry skill-building and content together seamlessly and effortlessly.  More on that in future blog posts - keep your eyes out!