Why is Scientific Inquiry important for students?
What makes Scientific Inquiry a vital part of Progressive Learning
Do you remember eagerly watching a butterfly or a cloud and wondering about its life cycle? You experienced a touch of scientific curiosity, which all children naturally possess. Education that supports scientific inquiry aims to develop this curiosity into a passion for innovation.
Since ancient times, humans have used the method of scientific exploration to establish the cause and effect relation between events and find answers to problems. Gradually, the methods of scientific inquiry were structured and incorporated as a part of teaching-learning. Now, educationists use these methods to explain natural occurrences to students.
Definition of Scientific Inquiry:
The phenomenon of Scientific Inquiry refers to the methods by which we study natural life and present an explanation based on evidence.
The elements that are critical to this process are:
Wonder: The student asks a question, wonders about what may be causing a certain action or reaction in nature, and seeks an answer.
Model: Students develop a model of investigation, combining experiments, observation, and presentation of the thought behind the inquiry. The model of scientific inquiry states the motive of the inquiry and the method being used to reach a solution.
Explanation: This is the final stage of the process, where the results of the findings are presented based on Evidence attained after testing the hypothesis and analyzing observations.
Methods of Inquiry: Observation vs. Experiment
The method of scientific inquiry chosen depends upon the subject. Most of the natural phenomena call for observation as the primary method of inquiry. Experimentation is suitable where an expected result or hypothesis is formed first, and then students prove it. Here’s a comparison of the processes followed for both the models of study:
Activities that form a part of Scientific Inquiry
Through brainstorming sessions, students express different views and list their observations. Through the techniques, facilitators can help students learn the process of scientific inquiry and develop a hypothesis. Classroom activities undertaken to promote the scientific study by students include the following:
- Lab experiments
- Construction of models
- Classification and grouping of objects
- Comparison of events or objects
- Discussion in classroom
The process starts when children read some text and ask questions based on it. Such questions are discussed in class and shared on online mediums such as Padlet. Students are encouraged to question theories and think about multiple solutions or correlations. Then they conduct experiments in labs or do field visits. They may also build models as a class activity, working in teams. When multiple minds come together, they can learn to collaborate while building an innovative idea.
In the next stage, they prepare a graphic organiser to put their thoughts in shape. Through the organiser, they show the relationship between various elements to explain how a phenomenon works. Being a highly flexible medium of recapitulation, the graphic organiser proves to be highly inclusive. It allows each student to put forth their understanding of the topic, without conforming to a set norm. They are motivated to be original while presenting their learning and not copy someone else.
Another method that educators use for assessing the learning of students is the KWL format. In this process, students note the following:
- What I Know
- What I Want to Know
- What I Learned
Thus, this process encapsulates the learning journey of the student and also enables teachers to understand where the child needs explanation or support for further learning.
How Scientific Inquiry supports Progressive Pedagogy?
Weaving scientific inquiry in the curriculum at different stages is crucial. As a child grows, the capacity for perception and investigation also grows. At an elementary stage, scientific acumen is confined to the knowledge gained through textbooks and worksheets. Then, it moves to some experiments or demonstrations, facilitated by the teacher. In Primary grades, students learn by replicating the demonstrations shown by the facilitator.
On reaching Middle years, students conduct independent experiments to find answers to the questions posed by the teacher. In the next stage, students ask original questions, formulate a hypothesis, design experiments and find the answers. The problems are open-ended and students seek various solutions. Thus, they learn the process of scientific inquiry by growing through different stages.
For instance, at the elementary level, a teacher may show students the phenomenon of vapour rising from a kettle and explain the process of evaporation, even connect it to the phenomenon of clouds formation. At a higher stage, students will select a geographical location, measure the quantity of water displacement during a fixed time, find causes for higher or lower evaporation and explain the changes in rainfall patterns over the years. Thus, the process of inquiry takes shape as a student adopts independent investigation.
The objective of inculcating the skills of scientific inquiry is to enable students to use the tools and techniques for a better future. They must be able to work towards sustainable development goals with the help of scientific methods. We aim to create a holistic world where science is understood and appreciated by all, and we are working towards simplifying the scientific language for all communities.
Nov 10, 2021 by Shiv Nadar School