Sunday, March 10, 2013

Practice over Content

Practice over Content

The Inquiry-based Science Classroom

It has been a remarkable week for students in the inquiry-based science classroom at Streamwood High School.  With just over a month away until the Elgin School District U46 Science Expo there is a sense of urgency as students prepare their final lab proposals, which function as a blueprint for scientific investigations.  This process in science that students create is embedded within a science curriculum that is originally geared toward covering content.  This causes stress within the learning environment as both teacher and students struggle to maintain effective time management of class activities, create open-ended learning environments and work to move forward on their research and experimentation.

Innovative STEM curriculum initiatives require redesigning of how learning opportunities are presented to the students that emphasis practice over content.  The curious interplay between science content and inquiry requires producing subtle strategic learning opportunities that are driven by the pace of learning in the classroom, problem solving and the development of a clear sense of purpose.  Students working in groups pool together resources, experience and understanding and create scientific experimentation.  The depth of students’ perseverance and understanding, when conducting inquiry, are determined by the quality of their research and personal commitment to excellence.

Karen Ostlund, the current President of NSTA has stated the following in the most current issue of the publication NSTA Reports, “The scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts should be used throughout the curriculum and instruction so students have many opportunities to become proficient at using the practices to deepen their understanding of disciplinary core concepts by connecting them with crosscutting concepts.”

Students test the design of wind turbines to determine electrical power and efficiency.
The debate between content and process in science education has been raging for decades, so teachers need to aim high to strike a balance in the science classroom. It comes down to adding skill-building opportunities within the science curriculum as essential steps to meet the new standards presented by the Next Generation Science Standards. New priorities in science education are for students to develop the abilities to interpret graphs and data, plan and carrying out scientific investigations and assess the validity of scientific claims and conclusions.

Students design scientific experiments to determine
the effectiveness of worm tea upon the gowth of herbs
 and vegetable plants.




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