Competencies• one competency in the first cycle ( 5 to 7 years old)• three competencies in the other cycles (students aged from 8 to 17 years old)Concepts, techniques and procedures•Elementary: belong to the teachers•Highschool: ministerial
We use a collection of 20 subject matters that addressthe four compulsory concepts in the Quebec EducationProgram:•The Living World•The Material World•The Earth and Space•The Technological World
The six principals of the Inquiry Approach Adaptation of La mapPrincipal 1Students observe a common object or phenomenon and doexperiments on or about it. Principal 2 During their investigations, students reason and debate, share and discuss their ideas and their results to build their knowledge because a purely manual activity does not suffice.
Principal 3The activities that the teacher presents to the studentsrespect the Progression of Learning as well as the QuebecEducation Program and leave many opportunities for thestudents to demonstrate their autonomy. Principal 4 Approximately two hours per week are devoted to one specific theme and this for a period of a few weeks. A continuum of activities and pedagogical methods is ensured throughout the learning.
Principal 5Each student writes and keeps an experiment logbook, written in their words with their own drawings. Principal 6 The main objective is a progressive appropriation of scientific concepts and techniques as well as written and oral consolidation.
General ProcedureIntroduction of the questionnaire This questionnaire is a preamble to the learning situation. The purpose is to: •Introduce the topic and motivate students; •Identify the students’ prior knowledge of the topic.
Each Learning Situation is organized in much the same way 1. Class group work (plenary) Recall and discuss the common thread of the study subject, the responses already given, and any remaining questions and finally expose the challenge of the day.
Co-operation2. Team workStudents seek and find possible solutions to the proposed challenge.They discuss their ideas and try to agree on a common understandingto share with the class.The teacher ensures that the tasks are shared fairly and may decide orassign the defined roles within the teams.During the experiment, the teacher observes the students, facilitatestheir exchanges and helps further their work in progress throughquestions that confront their ideas and their concepts.While the teams are working, the teacher keeps track of observationsmade, other traces and how the students work to be used during theplenary.
3. Collective summary (plenary)Discussions, both in small groups or as a class are crucial ineach session.Discussions allow students to reflect on what they alreadyknow (their prior knowledge), to become aware of theirhypotheses, assumptions and prejudices, to learn from theirpeers and to develop and improve their communication skills.As animator of the plenary, the teacher’s role is to guidestudents as they clarify their ideas, organize their thoughts andcompare different solutions, analyse and interpret the results.Thus, tentative conclusions will be made so that studentsgradually appropriate the scientific concepts and techniques aswell as the specific language and vocabulary used in scienceand technology (disciplinary competencies).
4. HomeworkOffered on a regular basis, homework is meant to: • ensure continuity with classroom work (research, reinvestment…); • promote school-family ties; the universal aspect of the proposed topics often raises interest among parents, an interest that brings an added incentive to students in their school work.
Role of the teacher It is not necessary to be a scientific expert to lead thesesessions; to develop this approach simply means: •working directly with students with scientific equipment;•allowing fumbles and/or mistakes to be made by both thestudents and the teacher and then showing how they can bebeneficial;•accepting not knowing everything and accustoming thestudents to search for the missing information from others orfrom books and then resuming the investigation;•asking questions and be willing to consider all of the answers;•questioning one’s own ideas ,thoughts and predictions, ifnecessary.
While circulating among the teams: •encourage exploration and participation of all team members;•provide support to teams to conduct their own experiments andresist the temptation to solve problems for them;• help students focus their reasoning by asking open questions thatprovide direction and challenge;•remind students to leave traces of their work;•encourage students to use their prior knowledge (or priorexperiences) and apply them to the new situations that areproposed;•participate in the discussions as a team member.
A few suggestions to lead stimulating discussions: •make the discussion an exchange of ideas and impressions;•accept each students’ input as valid and important;•help students clarify their ideas; an incomplete or oddremark/statement may be the core of a unique, importantidea;•ask open questions that ensure their understanding and thatallow them to make connections throughout the learningprocess;•help students understand that you are not the only person thatasks questions and that their questions are also an importantpart of the discussion and the learning process.
[…] The goal of science education should no longer be to simplytransmit science, but to introduce the young into a scienceculture appropriate for them. What generally takes priority inschools, in grades 3 and 4 more specifically, is encouraging achild to be open to knowledge and to be curious about what isunfamiliar or unclear. “Doing science” should lead to developingattitudes of curiosity, critical thinking, creativity….What basic skills in science in elementary school? André Giordan, Cahiers pédagogiques no. 479,February 2010.
Then, through science, the objective should focus on the steps ofthinking, the thought process. On the one hand knowledge“passes” through accessing and sorting information and throughknowledge and mobilization on the other. In this respect, theindividual must also master the experimental procedures in theirmultiple dimensions: observation, investigation, measure,estimation, experimentation,…(see Fig.1) Fig 1. The different dimensions of the experimental approachWhat basic skills in science in elementary school? André Giordan, Cahiers pédagogiques no. 479,February 2010.
The systematic approach is another compulsory passage ofelementary or even nursery school (see Box 1). It is the same forpragmatics, which is commonly forgotten. The idea is no longerto simply learn to solve problems, but first to know how to clarifysituations in order to expose the problem. It’s about realizingthat there is not always one solution to a problem, there may beseveral or none at all; that in any event, they depend on thecontext.
The challenge of evaluation is not in measuring acquiredknowledge, the quality of the technique used, the use of anappropriate procedure or in the results obtained by thestudents.The greatest challenge is to help students to identify themost effective strategies they or their peers are usingthroughout the course of the project.
But how can we realistically help students to identifytheir strengths and to recognize their peers’ strengthsand effective strategies?
1. By having clear expectations and ensuring students knowwhat they are.
2. By using the silent walk (or the museum tour) video
3. By making postersIt brings discoveries and effective strategies to mind; thusbecoming the collective memory of the group.
4. By having students present their work or productions(oral presentation, posters, power points…)
5. By having self evaluation and peer evaluation:6. By frequently discussing self evaluation (Target and strategies)
Evaluation paths:•Group discussion•Team work•Presentation of results and procedure to the group•Questionnaire•Personal experimental booklet
Conclusion Everyone can reach the target, as long as it can be seen and as it doesn’t move.• Give clear expectations that are known to everyone• Provide access to other students’ strategies, procedures and learning processes• Reflect on strengths, challenges and on identifying concrete ways to improve
A challenge: Teachers’ trainingThe main obstacle to the development of students’competencies is the teacher’s lack of scientific knowledge*.Although it is known and acknowledged by teachers, it israrely seen as a priority. A training session in science wouldallow teachers to be more effective in guiding their studentswhen developing competencies in science.*Research Action with Dr. Annie Savard from McGillUniversity.
• Design and adaptation of new lesson plans (6 to 8 hours);• Adding new subjects integrating technology;• Professional development: didactic (concepts, processes and reasoning); pedagogical (classroom management, guiding and assessment).