Teaching Science As Inquiry: Successes and Challenges in the U.S.


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by Bruce Fuchs

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Teaching Science As Inquiry: Successes and Challenges in the U.S.

  1. 1. Teaching Science As Inquiry: Successes and Challenges in the U.S. Bruce A. Fuchs, Ph.D., Director Office of Science Education National Institutes of Health , DHHS [email_address] http://science.education.nih.gov
  2. 2. Inquiry in Science <ul><li>Inquiry refers to the way scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists ask questions about the world </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What causes earthquakes? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is the climate changing? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What causes human illness? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Inquiry in different fields of science is similar </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rigorous reasoning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considers evidence (observations, lab experiments, etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hypothesis testing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Build models and/or theories that are predictive and subject to further testing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Inquiry is central to the nature of science </li></ul>
  3. 3. Inquiry in Science Education <ul><li>Inquiry refers to a way of teaching science that incorporates aspects of the scientist’s approach </li></ul><ul><li>Inquiry can be used to teach science content </li></ul><ul><li>Inquiry is also a skill students should master </li></ul><ul><li>Inquiry is not… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Best learned simply by reading about it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A procedure that can be memorized (e.g., “the scientific method”) </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Inquiry in Other Occupations <ul><li>Inquiry is used in other careers–not just science </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Physician diagnosing illness in a patient </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assembly line worker investigating production line errors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Office worker using database to solve customer’s problem </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Businesses report that employees with problem solving and critical thinking skills are in short supply </li></ul><ul><li>These skills are rewarded in the U.S. economy </li></ul>
  5. 5. Teaching the New Basic Skills <ul><li>Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy </li></ul><ul><li>Skills need for a Middle Class Job </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Read at a 9th grade level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Math at a 9th grade level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Solve problems where hypotheses required </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to work in groups with diverse people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ability to use personal computers for basic tasks </li></ul></ul><ul><li>50% (or more) of students will not get these skills </li></ul>
  6. 6. New Division of Labor <ul><li>Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane </li></ul><ul><li>Four types of workplace tasks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Routine cognitive (filing, bookkeeping) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Routine physical (assembly line) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expert Thinking (solving new problems) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complex Communication (eliciting, conveying, interpreting info) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What jobs will be computerized? </li></ul><ul><li>What jobs will be offshored? </li></ul>
  7. 7. New Division of Labor
  8. 8. Features of Classroom Inquiry <ul><li>Students engage in scientific questions </li></ul><ul><li>Students give priority to evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Students form explanations from evidence </li></ul><ul><li>Student connects explanation to scientific knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Students evaluate their explanations in the light of alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Students can communicate and justify proposed explanations </li></ul>
  9. 9. NIH Curriculum Supplements Series <ul><li>Targets grades K-12 </li></ul><ul><li>16 teaching units developed to date </li></ul><ul><li>Developed in collaboration with NIH scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Created with outside curriculum development experts (e.g., BSCS) </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive teaching units that combine cutting-edge science from the NIH with innovative pedagogy. </li></ul><ul><li>Over 315,000 supplements requested by educators in more than 16,700 zip codes http://science.education.nih.gov </li></ul>
  10. 10. Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry <ul><li>Inquiry in the “foreground” of lesson </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss how scientists work </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teamwork </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sharing data and explanations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working with questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Scientific </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Testable </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Solve a community health problem </li></ul>
  11. 11. Challenges to Inquiry <ul><li>Preparing teachers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inquiry intimidating if teacher is unsure of content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Professional development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supportive curricular materials </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Myths about inquiry </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All instruction should be inquiry based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students must generate their own questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good “hands-on” curricular materials = good inquiry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inquiry is independent of subject content matter </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Assessment: A Major Challenge <ul><li>Most state and national-level assessments do not measure inquiry skills </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We measure what is cheap and easy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We don’t measure some things we value most </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assessment should measure both content knowledge and specific inquiry skills </li></ul><ul><li>Business assesses these skills in prospective employees </li></ul><ul><li>Schools need effective, inexpensive ways to assess these skills </li></ul>
  13. 13. Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) <ul><li>http://www.pisa.oecd.org </li></ul><ul><li>Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) </li></ul><ul><li>Policy oriented-determined by needs of governments </li></ul><ul><li>“ Literacy”- capacity of 15 year old students to apply knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Not limited to curricular competencies- lifelong learning </li></ul><ul><li>49 countries- OECD members + others </li></ul>
  14. 14. Problem Solving Example
  15. 15. PISA 2003 Problem Solving USA
  16. 16. National Academy of Sciences’ Research on Workplace Skills <ul><li>#1- Future Skill Demands </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High skill jobs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low skill jobs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>#2- Workplace skills through science education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem solving, critical thinking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working in teams </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Oral and written communication </li></ul></ul><ul><li>#3- Assessing workplace skills </li></ul>
  17. 17. Office of Science Education National Institutes of Health <ul><li>Bruce A. Fuchs, Ph.D., Director Office of Science Education </li></ul><ul><li>National Institutes of Health, DHHS </li></ul><ul><li> bruce.fuchs@nih.gov </li></ul><ul><li>http://science.education.nih.gov </li></ul>