Now, after many years of professional development in the UW summer institutes, both as a participant and as an instructor, I feel comfortable teaching most, if not all, of the science concepts covered in elementary and middle school. It is an understanding of the content that allows me to teach with confidence units such as electric circuits, magnetism, heat and temperature, and sinking and floating. And although this content knowledge was essential, simply understanding the content did not assure that I could bring my students to an understanding appropriate for them.
How does one begin to develop some expertise in these strategies we call inquiry? For me, I can only suppose that it began by reflecting upon my personal experiences. I don’t believe that this was ever a deliberate exercise on my part until recently. However, in subtle ways, over a period of many years, I began to teach in the way in which I had been taught in the summer institutes.
I know that early on I began to pay attention to the questions that I asked, for the questions stood out in my mind as the tools that, when deftly wielded, resulted in the desired state of understanding in me. I knew, too, that questions would help me to discover the intellectual status of my students. In other words, where they were. Armed with the necessary conceptual understanding, aware of several “pitfalls” (misconceptions) that I had personally encountered, I was prepared to think about questions that would help me find out where I needed to start. I envisioned the terrain between the students and their conceptual understanding. I liken the terrain to an aerial photograph that clearly details all the various roads that lead to the designated destination. It also indicates the “dead ends” and the hazards from which I want to steer my cover me with white