Inquiry & 3 Dimensional Science Learning

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 4.30.59 PM

Don’t teach this linear method!

Teaching students how to “do science” using the old, linear scientific method is not truly reflective of how scientists study the world around them. The scientific method gives a false sense that there is a step-by-step process for how to approach research, including moving from analysis to conclusion without ever reinvestigating, retesting, and revising. Science learning is not a rigid process, it is much more fluid. What is a closer method for teaching science? Inquiry! Sometimes I think this word is used so much that it no longer sounds like a real thing.  Inquiry is simply an act of asking questions to gain information. Science education researchers have been looking into how inquiry fits with science learning since the early 1960s when Bob Karplus and J. Myron Atkin published a paper based on “guided learning” or more known as the Learning Cycle (Rebello & Zollman, 1998). Guided learning focused on exploration, invention, and discovery, and was mostly used at the elementary level. Over the next 30 years, educators noticed the lack in formal reasoning skills among secondary and collegiate level students so began applying the learning cycle at the upper levels as well. There have been many different models developed but all are based on the original learning cycle. One of the more common models used at the secondary level for science education is the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E Instructional Model (5Es) lead by Rodger Bybee in the 1980’s. The BSCS 5E Instruction Model consists of 5 phases that all begin with “E” (imagine that 🙂 ): Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Bybee et. al., 2006). See the diagram below for more information about each phase. Continue reading

Using Phenomena to Engage Students

The term “phenomena” is the newest buzzword in many education circles, including science. You know what I think of every. single. time. I hear this word? I visualize the muppets and this gem…

I smile and laugh to myself every time I hear this word, which immediately puts me in a good mood, and after a year of learning about and *attempting* to apply phenomena-based learning in my classroom, I still smile and laugh. As the new school year approaches I want to share my insights and hopefully persuade you into trying this type of student-driven learning in your classroom too!

Let’s begin at the beginning: what is a phenomenon (plural: phenomena)? The definition for this word is slightly different depending on your resource but all definitions have this in common: a phenomenon is an event that is observable. In a science classroom, students must be able to use disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts as evidence to support explanations for the cause(s) of the phenomenon in question. Hearing the term “phenomena” may connect you to the term “phenomenal” and lead you to believing a phenomenon must be an unusual or extraordinary event, however this is not true! While unusual and extraordinary events may seem like the most engaging options (i.e. What causes the Harvest Moon?Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 9.48.34 PM Why do we see dew in the summer but frost in the winter?), phenomena can also be the more common or “simpler” observation (i.e. How does a tiny acorn become a big tree? How/why does an icy drink become wet on the outside?). There are two ways to use phenomena in the classroom: anchoring phenomenon, which needs an entire unit to explain the observation, and a lesson-level phenomenon, which is an observation explained by smaller pieces of information that’ll eventually support the bigger ideas.

Continue reading