The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 86

OCR for page 86
5 Preparing Teachers for Inquiry-Based Teaching For students to understand inquiry In the context of inquiry, these profes- and use it to learn science, their sional development standards can be teachers need to be well-versed in organized into four categories: inquiry and inquiry-based methods. Yet most teachers have not had • Standard A: Learning Science opportunities to learn science through through Inquiry inquiry or to conduct scientific inquir- • Standard B: Learning to Teach ies themselves. Nor do many teachers Science through Inquiry have the understanding and skills they • Standard C: Becoming Lifelong need to use inquiry thoughtfully and “Inquirers” appropriately in their classrooms. • Standard D: Building Profes- What do teachers need to know and sional Development Programs for be able to do to use inquiry effec- Inquiry-Based Learning and Teaching tively? What kinds of professional development can help prospective and The latter part of this chapter is practicing teachers both develop and organized around these four themes. use inquiry-based strategies? The chapter begins, however, with a The National Science Education broad overview of the role profes- Standards — and particularly the sional development can play in redi- standards for the professional develop- recting teaching and learning toward ment of science teachers — are a inquiry. useful organizer for these questions. 87 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
THROUGH A TEACHER’S EYES: ment program that led to his Master of A VIEW OF PROFESSIONAL Arts in Teaching Integrated Sciences. DEVELOPMENT FOR INQUIRY- His story raises important issues BASED TEACHING about teachers’ motivations, values, understandings, and experiences as In the following vignette, Steve, a they learn about inquiry and about high school physics teacher, reflects how to teach science using inquiry. on the three-year professional develop- A Teacher Discusses Professional Development for Inquiry-Based Teaching: Steve’s Story When I began my three-year masters program, I had several reservations about teaching through inquiry. I thought it would require more time than my typical lecture and laboratory teaching. I also thought it would conflict with the demand for “cover- age” of science content. And I didn’t want to leave my “comfort zone” where my students and I generally knew what was expected. At the same time, I felt that I was not exposing my students to enough of the impor- tant and interesting ideas of physics. I had known for years, based on the questions I asked on tests and during classes, that my students weren’t retaining much of anything I “taught.” They seemed to know a lot and understand very little. It was obvious to me that the students were memorizing the terms and equations only long enough to answer questions on a test and then the information vanished. I gained a number of insights as I tried and refined various methods introduced during my masters program. The program consisted of six-week full-time summer institutes and seminars during the academic year. My first important insight occurred when I was involved in a long-term inquiry at the beginning of the first summer. Being 88 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
challenged to ask good questions, to design effective investigations, and to carefully craft our explanations of what we found as we explored the watershed in southern Colorado—these experiences demonstrated the complexity and importance of learning to do science as well as learning about science. Another important step forward came when I appreciated the significance of focusing on the “big ideas” in physics. For example, I had planned to teach a physics unit on energy, and I decided to look more deeply into the subject. In the course of the reading I did as part of the program, I gained a much deeper understanding of the relationships among the storage, transfer, transformations, and conservation of energy. As I reflected on my past teaching, I realized that I had taught this subject in a piecemeal manner, jumping from one topic to the next. I never gave my students this broad vision of physics because I never had it myself. My greater understanding of energy became the basis for a unit that was, without question, the most effective I had ever taught up to that time. I sought to have my students use inquiry to understand about energy conservation, different kinds of energy, and energy transformation. For example, I used a relatively open-ended laboratory in which I brought in a large “Rube Goldberg” contraption in which various bells and whistles were activated as balls and other devices were in motion. I asked the students to identify some questions they had about what was going on in the contraption related to energy, thinking about ideas of energy conservation, different kinds of energy, and energy transformation that we had been studying. They also identified how they thought they could answer their questions, what experiments they could design, and data they could collect that would provide sufficient evidence to explain what was happening. It was obvious from the high level of student engage- ment in their investigations and from their performance and feedback that they were making sense of the physics concepts and building their inquiry skills simultaneously. Teaching to the “big ideas” of physics through inquiry also helped me implement my 89 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
state’s science content standards, which had been developed to be consistent with the National Science Education Standards. Furthermore, the assessments I gave students at the end of the unit demonstrated to me that they had learned more about energy than when I had taught it in earlier classes. One of my previous ideas about inquiry was that it consisted mainly of doing laboratory activities. I discovered that, although labs can aid in the process of sense- making, they often don’t because they are either “cookbook” (they don’t allow the students to make choices or judgments) or “confirmatory” (they follow lectures or students’ reading). What I have realized is that the essence of inquiry does not lie in any elaborate, equipment-intensive laboratory exercise. It lies, rather, in the interac- tions between the student and the materials, as well as in the teacher-student and student-student interactions that occur dozens of times each and every class period. One way that we learned about student-teacher interactions in my program was through a series of videotapes of teachers. We also were encouraged to try our hand at such behaviors as listening, clarifying statements, and open-ended questioning. I found myself responding to students with statements like, “Tell me more about Y,” “What is the evidence for that conclusion?” and “How did you decide on that explanation over the one you were convinced of yesterday?” I tried more small-group activities that were structured to encourage the team mem- bers to talk, debate, and come up with predictions based on initial observations and with explanations based on evidence. I informally assessed my students’ knowledge almost daily. Frequently, I began lessons with activities to set the context for helping students discuss conceptual ideas and make my presentations more meaningful. Another major step I took in my growth as a teacher was to begin allowing student questions to influence the curriculum. Instead of always framing the questions myself, I encouraged the students to pose questions that arose in their minds. This idea was a revelation! Listening to the students’ questions has uncovered countless points of confusion that otherwise would have gone completely unrecognized. As part of my masters program, I decided to monitor how much I was listening. I recorded the amount of time I was talking and the amount of time my students were talking. At first, the proportion of teacher/student talk time was approximately 80/20. By midway through the first semester, this proportion had been exactly reversed. This small piece of research was a turning point in my appreciating the value of teaching through inquiry. Our professional development program allowed ample time during each of our classes for us to talk with each other about our recent “experiments” in our classrooms. Although the group was quite diverse in backgrounds and grades taught, those conversations were important to my growth and encouraged me to keep trying inquiry approaches. As I reflect on the three years I spent in the program, I know I gained immensely from the other teachers and from the education faculty and scientists with whom we worked closely. 90 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
Steve’s account reflects some attention to student questions and concerns that are common among creating opportunities for them to teachers early in their exploration of collect evidence and use it as the basis inquiry. Initially he perceived that his for explanations, and he is doing this teaching was already successful and before he presents material to them that an important part of his role as rather than after. science teacher was to help students Steve’s reflections also point out become familiar with the myriad facts some important features of profes- and concepts of science. Yet he also sional development for inquiry-based suspected that his students were not teaching. One is the need for teachers really learning (and retaining) what he to do inquiry to learn its meaning, its wanted them to know. And he knew value, and how to use it to help stu- he was neglecting the need to help his dents learn. Another is the impor- students learn inquiry skills and tance of a community of teacher- understand how scientists used those learners that mirrors scientific com- skills to produce knowledge. munities. According to the Standards, Steve came to see that moving such communities both challenge and toward inquiry-based teaching meant support the development of knowl- adopting a different role as a teacher. edge by scientists, students, and, in He created more opportunities for his this case, teachers. students to explore ideas alone, with Steve’s reflections also demonstrate materials, and with each other. He that it can take a significant amount of listened more so he could learn what time to make transformational they understood and misunderstood, changes in teaching. Steve’s program what they were thinking, and what included six-week-long summer they were learning. And he learned to institutes and monthly academic-year structure his lessons around “big seminars. By his own account, Steve ideas” rather than around the facts was able to make headway on his and formulas that he had previously journey to inquiry-based teaching but seen as central to the discipline of by no means reach a final destination. physics. Finally, the professional development Steve’s reflections demonstrate in which Steve engaged gave him a many of the changes that can reorient wide range of opportunities with teaching toward inquiry. He is using inquiry, from field work to inquiries inquiry in all three of the ways speci- fed by the literature to inquiries into fied by the Standards by teaching his own classroom behaviors, such as inquiry abilities, an understanding of his research on teacher-student talk inquiry, and science subject matter time. through inquiry. He is paying more Steve’s experiences provide a basis 91 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
from which to explore the four main through inquiry, teachers need to topics discussed in the professional understand the important content development standards, beginning ideas in science — as outlined, for with how teachers learn the science example, in the Standards. They need they need to know to do inquiry-based to know how the facts, principles, teaching. laws, and formulas that they have learned in their own science courses are subsumed by and linked to those LEARNING SCIENCE THROUGH important ideas. They also need to INQUIRY know the evidence for the content Teachers have very different levels they teach — how we know what we of knowledge and skills in science. know. In addition, they need to learn Prospective teachers in colleges and the “process” of science: what scien- universities may have only high school tific inquiry is and how to do it. science courses behind them. Experi- But how can teachers learn the enced teachers who are certified in major ideas in the scientific disci- other fields may find themselves plines? There are many possibilities, teaching science. Veteran science from formal preservice or in-service teachers or scientists who aspire to classes, to independent programs of study, to serious reflection on their interactions with students in their inquiry-based classrooms. The next three vignettes in this chapter de- scribe a range of science courses and professional development experiences that give teachers an opportunity to learn the major ideas of science disciplines through inquiry. The first vignette tells the story of a university- based physicist who teaches teachers within the structure of a university course. The second describes the teach may have a strong but tradi- experiences of a teacher taking part in tional science background or may be that same course. And the third tells teaching a science different from their of a kindergarten teacher who is background. All may find themselves immersed in science at a program in a challenged by the need to learn more science museum. or a different kind of science. Besides changing the traditional To teach their students science lecture approach in a science course, 92 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
some college professors have devel- laboratory-based modules that have oped special science courses for K-12 been developed on the basis of re- teachers. The Physics Education search on the learning and teaching of Group in the Department of Physics at physics. (References to relevant the University of Washington offers research can be found in McDermott special courses for both preservice and Redish, 1999.) The courses help and inservice teachers. The curricu- teachers develop a functional under- lum is based on Physics by Inquiry standing of important physical con- (McDermott et al., 1996), a set of cepts. This level of understanding A University-Based Physicist Discusses Concept Formation in the Laboratory: Lillian’s Story The curriculum used in physics courses for teachers should be in accord with the instructional objectives. If the capacity to teach “hands-on” science is a goal, then teachers need to work through a substantial amount of content in a way that reflects this spirit. However, there is another compelling reason why the choice of curriculum is critical. Teachers often try to implement instructional materials in their classrooms that are very similar to those that they have used in their college courses. Whether intended or not, teaching methods are learned by example. The common tendency to teach physics from the top down, and to teach by telling in lectures, runs counter to the way precollege students (and many university students) learn best. Therefore, courses for precollege teachers should be laboratory-based. In the curriculum that we have developed and use in our courses for preservice and inservice teachers, all instruction takes place in the laboratory. The students work in small groups with equipment similar to that used in precollege programs. The ap- proach differs from the customary practice of introducing a new topic by stating definitions and assertions. Instead, students are presented with a situation in which the need for a new concept becomes apparent. Starting with their observations, they begin the process of constructing a conceptual model that can account for the phenom- enon of interest. Carefully structured questions guide them in formulating operational definitions of important concepts. They begin to think critically about what they observe and learn to ask appropriate questions of their own. As they encounter new situations, the students test their model and find some instances in which their initial model is inadequate and that additional concepts are needed. The students continue testing, extending, and refining the model to the point that they can predict and explain a range of phenomena. This is the heart of the scientific method, a process that must be experienced to be understood. To illustrate the type of instruction summarized above, here is a specific example based on a topic included in many precollege programs. It describes how we guide 93 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
students to develop a conceptual model for a simple dc (direct current) circuit. Math- ematics is not necessary; qualitative reasoning is sufficient. The students begin the process of model-building by trying to light a small bulb with a battery and a single wire. They develop an operational definition for the concept of a complete circuit. Exploring the effect of adding additional bulbs and wires to the circuit, they find that their observations are consistent with the following assumptions: a current exists in a complete circuit and the relative brightness of identical bulbs indicates the magnitude of the current. As the students conduct further experiments (some suggested, some of their own devising), they find that the brightness of individual bulbs depends both on how many are in the circuit and on how they are connected to the battery and to one another. The students are led to construct the concept of electri- cal resistance and find that they can predict the behavior of many, but not all, simple circuits of identical bulbs. They recognize the need to extend their model beyond the concepts of current and resistance to include the concept of voltage (which will later be refined to potential difference). As bulbs of different resistance and additional batteries are added, the students find that they need additional concepts to account for the behavior of more complicated circuits. They are guided in developing more complex concepts, such as electrical power and energy. Proceeding step-by-step through deductive and inductive reasoning, the students construct a conceptual model that they can apply to predict relative brightness in any circuit consisting of batteries and bulbs. We have used this guided-inquiry approach with teachers at all educational levels, from elementary through high school. Having become aware of the intellectual demands through their own experience, the teachers recognize that developmental level will determine the amount of model-building that is appropriate for their students. For the teachers, however, the sense of empowerment that results from in-depth under- standing generates confidence that they can deal with unexpected classroom situations. 94 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
connotes the ability to do the reason- the staff — activities they know will ing necessary to apply the concepts to cause the students to confront their new situations. Lillian’s story tells existing beliefs about physics. This how the program is structured. guided inquiry is essential at the In Lillian’s story, we see the instruc- introductory level so that the students tors’ decision to guide the learning can later use their developing knowl- process so that the college students edge and conceptual understanding to are forced to confront difficult concep- dig more deeply into the key ideas of tual ideas and to go through the physical science. The University of reasoning necessary to reach their Washington program is based on the own understanding. Generalizations belief that both lecturing on basic and elucidation of general principles principles and providing unstructured come after experience and in iterative lab time are less effective strategies fashion. They are not presented first for bringing about student growth in as a base for students’ investigative conceptual understanding and reason- work. The guided activities are ing skills. purposely selected by the instructors Below, in Lezlie’s Story, we see the based on years of prior experience impact of this type of instruction on an with college students (including elementary school teacher. Lezlie was teachers) and extensive knowledge of at the beginning of her career when students’ typical thinking about key she first participated in the NSF ideas in physics. Carefully chosen Summer Institute for Inservice Teach- questions are designed to elicit ers at the University of Washington. debates and hard thinking about these Today, more than 25 years later, she ideas based on guided investigations, reflects on how her experience in the related readings, and small group and program has affected her professional individual work. Specific laboratory development as a teacher. investigations have been selected by An Elementary School Teacher Reflects on her Learning and Teaching Through Inquiry: Lezlie’s Story In late spring of my first year of teaching, I was informed that a drop in enrollment would result in the elimination of the 2nd grade position that I held. The good news, however, was that I was welcome to take a newly-created position as the science specialist for grades K-4. Not wanting to relocate and not stopping to consider that my major in French might not have appropriately prepared me for this new position, I 95 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
quickly agreed to take it for the following year. The district science supervisor sug- gested that we start with a couple of Elementary Science Study units, Clay Boats and Primary Balancing. The unit guides and equipment were ordered. I was all set to begin my new teaching role. Never having had a science lesson in elementary school, I was not predisposed, as I had been with the other subjects, to teach it as I had been taught. In fact, without any real textbook to guide the students, I was left with the materials and a few general instructions in the teacher’s guide. And so it was that my students and I became “explorers of materials.” We had a great time. The students were engaged. They talked a lot about what they were doing and we all asked a lot of questions. But I wanted to do more than just explore and ask questions. I wanted to learn some basic principles and have a clear vision of where we were going. I wanted to lead my students to discover and understand something. But what was it that we should under- stand? I hadn’t a clue. This is when I first came to recognize that if I were to become a truly effective teacher, I would need scientific skills and understandings that I had not been required to develop during my undergraduate years. Not long after this recognition of my deficiencies, I happened to glance through the school district’s newsletter, and came across a notice for a Summer Institute in Physics and Physical Science for Elementary Teachers. I applied and was accepted. The professional development provided by that first summer’s intense coursework was the first meaningful education I had experienced since high school. Nothing I had been exposed to in college had really addressed what I needed to know to guide my students to develop the conceptual understanding and thinking and reasoning skills needed to make sense of the world around them. I walked away from that summer feeling that my brain had been to boot camp. No course of study, no one teacher had ever demanded so much of me. I had never before been asked to explain my reasoning. A simple answer was no longer sufficient. I had been expected to think about how I came to that answer and what that answer meant. It had been excruciating at times, extricating the complicated and detailed thought processes that brought me to a conclusion, but I found it became easier to do as the summer progressed. I also began to realize that just as important as what I came to understand, was how I came to understand it. Through the process of inquiry, I had come to an understanding of content that I had always felt was beyond me. I wanted to be able to ask the questions that would lead my students to the same kind of understanding. The key to the questions was first understanding the content. The content had been the focus of the summer institute and as a result I had devel- oped a conceptual understanding of several basic science concepts including balance, mass, and volume. Along with these concepts I had discovered an appreciation for the need to control variables in an experiment. I was now better equipped to take a more critical look at the science units I had used the previous year. I recognized that Clay Boats had probably not been the best choice for a teacher with only a budding under- standing of sinking and floating, but Primary Balance seemed to be an appropriate choice since I had explored very similar materials and had some ideas of how I could lead students to discover, through experiments in which they would come to understand the need to control variables, which factors seem to influence balance and which do not. 96 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
I have noticed that many kindergartners do not have the language skills to express their questions, but that they often ask questions with their bodies by moving objects around. I help this ability along. I model the beginning of questions by saying: “I’m going to think out loud now — I’m wondering how I can find out if this prism will work if I move it to this side of the window — that’s asking a question.” As students are working with the mirrors and light, I model how to ask their questions. For example, I’ll say: “I see by the way you are moving that mirror that you are wondering, ‘Can I bend the light?’” I copy down students’ questions and post them for all to see. I allow time for free exploration with materials in a safe environment, so that mirrors and prisms are as much regular parts of the classroom as are paints and sand. Now that I have learned how to set up the classroom environment, I am trying harder to listen to their questions, watch their actions, and gently guide small groups into plan- ning and conducting longer investigations. Looking back, I can see how my own experience with inquiry has shaped how I work with my students. I want them to experience the curiosity, success, and persever- ance that I felt. I know that they can accomplish much with the right kind of teaching and that their feelings of competence grow with each step along the way. I feel that I am helping students to learn for themselves to become independent thinkers, a skill that will serve them well in their future schooling. And they will never look at light, shadow, and color the same way again. the most regularly taught topics in Joanna’s story demonstrates her one’s subject area, the most useful continuing development of “pedagogi- forms of representation of those cal content knowledge,” a term coined ideas, the most powerful analogies, by Lee Shulman (1986) to represent a illustrations, examples, explana- third component of teaching expertise tions, and demonstrations — in a that is unique to teachers. Pedagogi- word, the ways of representing and cal content knowledge is the integra- formulating the subject that make tion or synthesis of teacher’ pedagogi- it comprehensible to others. . . [It] cal knowledge (what they know about also includes an understanding of teaching) and their subject matter what makes the learning of specific knowledge (what they know about concepts easy or difficult: the what they teach) (Cochran, 1992). As conceptions and preconceptions Shulman (1986) notes, pedagogical that students of different ages and content knowledge backgrounds bring with them to the learning (p. 9). . . . embodies the aspects of content most germane to its teachability. As an example, experienced Within the category of pedagogical biology teachers planning a unit on content knowledge I include, for photosynthesis draw on their peda- 103 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
gogical content knowledge when questions about scientific phenom- they know the specific ideas stu- ena and how she can help them do dents are likely to bring to the so. She obser ves how they combine classroom (such as the idea that their developing language skills with plants get their food from the soil), use of their bodies. She is learning the ideas most likely to be difficult what materials stimulate her chil- (such as how ATP-ADP transforma- dren and help them develop explana- tions occur), and how to best deal tions of light and color. She has with these difficult concepts using arranged the learning environment examples, analogies, models, and to reflect all of the essential features demonstrations (Hashweh, 1987). In of classroom inquir y. Joanna’s case, her experiences with Joanna’s professional development inquir y learning and teaching are program emphasized her experiences building her pedagogical content with inquiry and focused less on how knowledge. Her understanding and she could bring these into her class- abilities of inquir y were sharpened room. Other kinds of professional in the museum program where she development programs focus more learned to ask good questions and directly on inquiry-based teaching. design investigations to gather They help teachers think in new ways evidence she could use to explain about what they want their students to learn, how they can help them learn it, and how they will know whether and what students have learned. They focus more directly on strengthening teachers’ pedagogical content knowl- edge in science. Preservice or graduate courses and in-service workshops are still the most prevalent formats for teachers to develop and improve their inquiry teaching. But many other strategies also are being used throughout the country to help both prospective and practicing teachers learn more about teaching science through inquiry. the obser vations that piqued her Loucks-Horsley et al. (1998) have interest. As she engages her own identified 15 different strategies for students in inquir y, she has become professional development, including conscious of how they learn to ask case discussions, examining student 104 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
work, action research, study groups, results of a performance assessment, technology-based learning, curriculum can be a valuable process for teachers. implementation, coaching and A number of questions can be asked mentoring, and immersion in scientific and discussed about the student’s inquiry (the approach taken in inquiry abilities. Has the student Joanna’s workshop). Their research asked a question that can be ad- suggests that strategies in which dressed? Does the design of the teachers study their own or others’ investigation demonstrate that the practice are especially powerful in student understands how to control building their knowledge of how variables? How elaborate is this students learn most effectively. Some student’s explanation? Is it based on examples of this kind of professional evidence? Has the student applied his development are the study of videos of or her new knowledge appropriately to classroom teaching; discussion of this new situation? written cases of teaching dilemmas; Working with curriculum materials and study of curriculum materials and can take many forms. Teachers can related student work (assignments, work through lessons to learn inquiry lab reports, assessments, etc.). and science subject matter as well as Written teaching cases and video- to analyze what students will learn, tapes of teaching are especially useful where they might have trouble, and in allowing teachers to examine many how teachers might help at those aspects of inquiry-based teaching and points. Teachers can try out a “re- learning. Student thinking can be placement unit,” substituting an analyzed as students respond to inquiry-oriented unit for one in their problems or questions posed by the current curriculum. Or teachers can teacher or to those that they them- analyze how students are learning a selves have posed. Teachers can particular set of outcomes from a unit study the responses given by the that the teachers are all teaching at teacher in the video or case study and the same time. the effect of those responses on the The following vignette illustrates students. They also can consider the several of the ways teachers can teaching decisions that were or could learn and practice their teaching of be made to help the students learn. inquir y using a new set of curricu- Looking at student work, such as lum materials. the write-up of an inquiry or the 105 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
A Fifth-Grade Teacher Learns to Teach Through Inquiry as She Works with New Curriculum Materials: Sandy’s Story I used to lack confidence about teaching science, largely because my own science background was limited. I tended to put my efforts into teaching literacy and numeracy. So when our school decided to adopt a new “hands-on inquiry” science program, I was anxious. All teachers, plus the principal and librarian, were expected to participate in four professional development sessions: two days at the beginning and midway through term one, and a half day at the beginnings of terms two and three. Between sessions, we would teach one assigned unit (there were three per grade level) with the support of colleagues in the building. Jenny, the district professional developer, had organized my school and three other schools to do the course together. She began the first session with an overview of the course and the curriculum materials. For each grade level there was a teacher’s book (and a student book) that focused a series of units, each on a major concept and a major skill. We participated in a number of activities that helped us see what was in the materials and experience some of the active investigations on which they were based. In the afternoon, all of the fifth-grade teachers met together. We reviewed the first lesson for the unit on animal behavior that we would be teaching that term, viewed and discussed a video of a few minutes of teacher-student interactions during the lesson, and looked at some student papers in which they responded to the question about the topic of the unit, which focused on the behavior of mealworms: “What do you know and what questions do you have about mealworms?” We had a wonderful discussion about what the unit was designed to teach students and how the combination of materials, student activities, and teacher-student interactions could best help them achieve the goals. Then we were each asked to choose a lesson that interested us from early in the unit and come prepared after teaching it to lead an in-depth discussion among the teachers at our next session three weeks later. We were to bring some “artifact” to focus discussion — for example, some student work, a video or audiotape of a teaching episode, or some student assessments. For example, I chose the lesson on how mealworms behave toward light — whether they move toward it, away from it, or are neutral to it. I brought in an audiotape of a small group discussion in which the students were puzzling over the mealworms’ behavior when they were placed different distances from a bright lamp. The students’ data indicated that the mealworms closest to the lamp moved away from it, but those within about a meter moved towards it. One student noted that it may be the heat that was influencing the mealworms’ behav- ior, not the light: another student said that they had too many things in the experiment that were varying and asked how they could determine the influence of light only, if lights were always hot. Another student looked around the room and located a relatively cool light and so they together devised a way to distinguish between the influences of light and heat on the mealworm behavior. It was a remarkable example 106 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
of students solving a problem and in the process learning not only about the behavior of mealworms but also developing an appreciation for controlling variables in an investigation. We teachers talked about whether I could have done anything differently in both setting up the activity for the students or in my questioning of them during their investigation. It was very stimulating to be able to “stop action” on a lesson, to clarify learning goals, and to examine the different possible consequences of different teach- ing behaviors. We learned a lot from the experience of sharing our work with students. Working together, we figured out how to use the set of lessons to stimulate, respond to, and draw out the students’ thinking. By the end of the session, we had a good idea about how to complete the unit in the next few weeks, how to teach the full unit next time, and also how to teach the other two units. While we were teaching, we had support from our school’s science coordinator, who had taken an in-depth one-week summer session on the curriculum and participated in monthly follow-up seminars with the other coordinators. Jenny had a strong science background and had previously pilot tested the curriculum materials we were learning to use. She had release time to help with the equipment or any problems we were having. When we met at the beginning of term two, we again had much to share. Although each of us had some problems, we all were fortified by the positive way our students had responded to the activities. I know that I learned even more science that term than my students. I also adapted cooperative learning to use in my mathematics program, with much success. In the third professional development session that preceded our second unit, we divided responsibility for studying and presenting to other teachers one lesson from the 107 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
new unit that we would teach that term. The unit was about density and focused on sinking and floating objects. As we shared our thinking about each of the lessons and developed our plans, we realized how much more careful we were being to identify the outcomes we wanted for our students. In some cases, we needed to problem-solve with Jenny about how to be certain that our students had learned these outcomes. The materials addressed both inquiry outcomes as well as science subject matter, so we paid attention to both. For the final session of the year, Jenny brought in a videotape of part of her lesson on sinking and floating. The students were investigating which objects sank and which floated, and they were developing their explanations of why. They seemed to have concluded that when air is inside an object (e.g., a boat or holes in a log) it would float and when there’s no air (e.g., a penny, a chunk of clay), it wouldn’t. Jenny was stuck. She didn’t know what to do next. She wondered how she could help her students get to the “right” explanation when their explanations were all over the map. We had a long and thoughtful discussion of this problem. We needed to consult our teacher’s guide to understand density better. We also needed to determine what the students’ observations and explanations told us about what they knew and where they needed to go. We asked, Are these students old enough to explain something they can’t really see? Are they really basing their explanations on the evidence they have? Have they considered enough of the explanations being posed by others? Have they listened and tried to understand how those explanations differ from their own? Can they explain in turn why they weren’t swayed to other explanations? At what point should I as the teacher come in and tell them which is the scientifically correct explana- tion, and what might be the consequences of doing so? It was a terrific discussion and emphasized for us how important it is to consider our students’ thinking, our role as teachers in building on their ideas and helping them to learn, and how important it is to increase their inquiry abilities so they can investigate more carefully and discover important science ideas from the National Science Education Standards. Sandy’s story illustrates how the teacher to seek more knowledge use of a new curriculum can provide a about science content and teaching vehicle for students to learn, at the approaches. same time as it helps teachers learn. Sandy’s story is likely to continue Study and use of strong, inquiry-based as she and her colleagues repeat the curriculum materials can sharpen a same units with new students the next teacher’s understanding of inquiry and year. As they increase their comfort the science students are learning with the materials, they will be able to through inquiry. It can create situa- focus on student thinking and learning tions that stretch the teacher’s knowl- and adjust their questioning, probing, edge, stimulate focused discussions and elaborating to deepen students’ with colleagues, and motivate the understanding. Ongoing collaboration 108 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
with other teachers, and with others tunities that teachers have to learn at with more expertise in science and all stages of their careers. It thus student learning, helps teachers such encompasses learning experiences for as Sandy continue to learn science prospective, beginning, and experi- concepts, inquiry abilities, and how enced teachers through preservice, scientific knowledge advances. induction, and in-service programs, Professional development that respectively. This chapter also empha- focuses on improving teaching sizes the importance of thinking about through inquiry achieves several professional development as a con- simultaneous objectives: tinuum. Teachers at any level may know an enormous amount about • It provides teachers with learn- some things but not others, and the ing experiences different from the stage of their careers should not more traditional college course or in- dictate what they will learn and in service workshop to include one-on- what depth they will learn it. one experiences such as coaching, The Standards emphasize the collaborative work such as study importance of lifelong learning by groups, and “job-embedded” learning making it one of four professional such as action research. development standards. Professional • It focuses on important aspects development must satisfy the ongoing of teachers’ practice, including the need of all prospective and practicing organization and presentation of teachers to continue to grow, to curriculum, student work, and teach- increase their knowledge and skills, ing dilemmas. and to improve their value to their • It helps teachers think carefully students. A commitment to inquiry — about how their students come to as something that all humans must do understand important science con- to improve their lives and those of cepts through inquiry, what help their others — is an important theme for students need in developing the professional development, in addition specific abilities of inquiry, and what to its other goals. learning experiences can make the The most effective professional work of scientists “real” to their development not only stimulates the students. need to continue to learn. It also provides knowledge about where to look for information, it provides oppor- BECOMING LIFE-LONG tunities to improve teaching and learn- “INQUIRERS” ing, and it introduces teachers to tools This chapter uses the term “profes- for continuous improvement. These sional development” to refer to oppor- tools include strategies to analyze 109 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
classroom experiences; to observe and as a tool for self-reflection and as a provide useful feedback to others; to way to take time to understand their record and document observations and activities and experiments. important information from other Several of the vignettes also illus- sources; and to search databases for trate ongoing learning through useful guidance and material. inquiry. Steve describes a component The vignettes in this chapter show of his program in which he was asked several of these tools in action. Sev- to define a research question about his eral of these stories were drawn from teaching, design and use a data collection and analysis scheme to address the question, and then report the results to his colleagues. Such action research projects are important sources of information for teachers. They organize what might otherwise be random impressions, unsystematic observations, and unconscious behav- iors into a frame that can inform teachers’ practice. They give teachers a tool that they can use to pursue questions about teaching throughout their careers. In Joanna’s case, a teacher who had not previously experienced inquiry had her eyes opened to its possibilities as a source of ongoing learning. Through professional development, she acquired the confidence to con- tinue to inquire into science concepts. Joanna’s motivation to think deeply about how her students were learning and what abilities they needed to keep learning produced continual refine- ments in her teaching and the learn- ing environment she established for the journals of teachers. Some journal her students. writing was required by the teacher’s The following vignette demon- professional development experience. strates many of these aspects of Other teachers simply keep journals becoming a life-long inquirer. 110 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
A Ninth-Grade Teacher Learns Geology in the Field: Gabe’s Story Last summer I had my first experience in doing real scientific inquiry. I signed up for a three-week institute sponsored by a nearby federal energy laboratory because I had been assigned to teach environmental science and had never done so before. It gave me the opportunity to learn more science as well as how to teach science. Over the three-week period, we were immersed in four “scenarios”— problems that required us to use a wide variety of investigative skills and integrate knowledge from a number of scientific disciplines. I’ll describe just one of those scenarios here: the environmental geology scenario. The program staff loaded us into two field vehicles, with one geologist per vehicle, and we drove to a ravine where a farmer had dumped many kinds of waste, from diapers to leftover herbicide. The question posed to us was: what is the impact of this kind of dumping? A geologist asked: “What do you think you would need to know to address the question?” We suggested many questions about the soil, water, the underlying rock, the nature of the waste material, and so on. We then got back into the vehicles to do a thorough tour of the land. We began 38 miles from the dump site and learned — through several stops and through reading materials provided to us — about the economy of the area, the rock deposits, and the water diverted for agriculture from the Grand Coulee Dam. We stopped near a roadcut and were given a handout with a cross-section of the area. A geologist asked: “Why is water seeping out between the two formations that we can observe in this roadcut?” We discussed possible explanations, and then the geologist talked about the difference in “hydraulic conductivity” between the two formations. We went on to another roadcut through the same formation and the geologist asked us to predict how water applied at the surface might move through the deposits. We came up with a couple of explanations and argued about the nature of evidence for each. We decided not to try to resolve our differences until we had more data. After several more stops, we began to observe differences in the soils around the formations. We decided to take soil samples that we could analyze back in the laboratory. When we reached the dump site again, the geologists asked us to describe the general topography of the land and compare it to the contour lines on a topographic map. We investigated vegetation changes, what these changes suggest about water movement in the area, and the kinds of sediment predicted to occur in this location. We then scat- tered around the dump site and took both soil and water samples, marking clearly on the map where they were taken from. 111 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G

OCR for page 86
We spent the next day in the laboratory testing water and soil samples and working with our descriptions, maps, and calculations to address the primary question (as well as many other questions that arose over the course of the day in the field). With input from the geologists and a laboratory chemist, we formulated answers to the question about the impact of dumping. We made predictions about where runoff from the site would go, how fast it would move, and how we could test our predictions. In this way, I feel that we developed a keen understanding of the scientific ideas behind our observations, analyses, and conclusions. Gabe was introduced to a nearby Great rifts exist between science resource, a federal energy research courses and education courses and laboratory, where scientists cared between courses within both science about education and made it possible and education. New teachers are for teachers (and, in other programs, often placed in the least desirable students) to participate in the actual teaching positions, with full teaching research being conducted. The loads, many preparations, difficult-to- professional development gave him an teach students, and little or no support opportunity to actually “do” science, to ease the challenging transition from which neither his preservice program student to full-time professional. nor previous inservice programs had Similarly, professional development given him. In this situation, he was for in-service teachers is generally introduced to his local environment in fragmented, consisting primarily of a way that he had not known it before. short workshops that are neither It also taught him a variety of ways to connected to each other nor to the inquire about this environment. In teachers’ classroom work (National sum, it equipped him to think about Commission for Teaching & America’s how the inquiry process and inquiry Future, 1996). abilities could interweave with science Professional development that is subject matter and how he could use supposed to improve inquiry-based the local environment as a primary teaching can have all these ills, and in locale for his students’ learning. addition, it often does not explicitly help teachers learn inquiry abilities and understandings. Programs are needed PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT that explicitly attend to inquiry — both PROGRAMS FOR INQUIRY- as a learning outcome for teachers and BASED TEACHING as a way for teachers to learn science Professional development often subject matter. Furthermore, these suffers from being piecemeal and programs need to help teachers learn fragmented. Preservice programs are how to teach through inquiry. often simply a collection of courses. The vignettes in this chapter 112 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

OCR for page 86
research — an activity so critical to their teaching that it merits inclusion in both preservice and inservice programs. Finally, all of the programs illustrated here had a clear commit- ment to the vision of the National Science Education Standards, which call for giving teachers the knowledge and abilities they need to address the science literacy needs of all their students. All of the programs viewed inquiry as a set of abilities and under- standings that teachers themselves needed to have, and their students needed to learn — as well as being a vehicle through which subject matter could be learned, and learned well. describe very different professional This lies at the heart of the Standards’ development programs, from Lillian’s view of inquiry. All of the programs university courses for prospective helped teachers learn science subject teachers, to immersion in inquiry in a matter, develop inquiry abilities, and science museum, to a three-year do so through their own opportunities masters program. Yet all share some to inquire. attributes of effective professional Professional development for development programs. inquiry-based teaching and learning is First, they offer coherent opportuni- critical to the future of science educa- ties for teachers to learn over time. tion as envisioned in the Standards, Three-year masters programs and which note: long-term curriculum implementation help teachers to gain new knowledge The current reform effort requires a substantive change in how science is and apply it to their teaching with taught; an equally substantive support by colleagues, their schools, change is needed in professional and districts. Second, many of these development practices (National professional development programs Research Council, 1996, p. 56). were the product of a collaboration of many people and organizations. Long-term, comprehensive, inquiry- Partnerships between educators, based professional development is an universities, and research institutions absolute requirement for the success involved scientists in creating opportu- of standards-based reform. nities for teachers to conduct scientific 113 P R E PA R I N G T E A C H E R S F O R I N Q U I R Y- B A S E D T E A C H I N G