To understand the relevant use of inquiry based learning strategies while the real classroom lesson, the main idea of the theory should be considered. According to Alvarado and Herr (2003), inquiry based learning strategy is a process “initiated by either teacher or students, in which students investigate central, essential questions while their teacher guides them through this process” (p. xiv).
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The main idea of the lessons under discussion is to help students understand what types of energy exist and according to which ways this energy can be produced, used, stored, or transported.
The importance of inquiry based learning strategies
Dwelling upon inquiry based learning strategies, it should be mentioned that it cannot be used during any lesson. One should clearly understand the purpose of the lesson and consider whether the inquiry based learning is appropriate there or not.
Collaborative inquiry learning is extremely important as it helps students understand that science is not just memorizing of formulae and writing lengthy numbers in the results of the experiments, but it is also an interesting world of research, applying knowledge into practice, following the process of the exploration and obtaining expected and unexpected results.
Considering one of the main purposes of the education in the USA, it is aimed at putting “strong emphasis on activities that investigate and analyse science questions” (Bell, Urhahne, Schanze, & Ploetzner, 2010, p. 350). The activities under discussion are aimed at conducting research, observing specific natural phenomena and making students interested in the research via the life and activities they are able to involve.
Stages for the inquiry based learning process
To provide a thorough and detailed feedback about the inquiry based learning strategies used in the activities under discussion, the lesson topics and steps should be analysed in detail. The best scheme for implementing inquiry based learning process in classroom is as follows, (1) statement of a focus question, (2) generating hypotheses, (3) experimentation steps, (4) reporting results (MaST Community Charter School, 2010).
These steps are basic and should be clearly identified while designing inquiry based learning. The next step of this discussion should be referred strictly to the discussion of the classroom activities devoted to Energy and planned by Amna and Emma as the sequence used with a stage three, year six class.
Stages for the inquiry based learning process used in the lesson plan
The first lesson is based on pulse rates. Students are encouraged to make predictions about the dependence of their pulse rate from their condition, test their pulse rates in different conditions, record the results in the science journal and draw conclusions. It is important to highlight that the focus question is absent.
The lesson plan does not encourage students for thinking about the lesson outcomes and does not inspire them for generating their hypotheses. However, the prediction stage and reasoning is present. After the background information, students are involved in the experiment activity and recording the results.
In general, the lesson is planned according to the requirements for the inquiry based learning process. The second lesson comprises three different experiments. The first one is devoted to consideration of the transferring of the energy by bouncing balls of different sizes, the second one is based on testing bouncing height, and the third one is dedicated to such bounce factors as surface.
Having explored the states of the lesson, we concluded that each experiment should utilise four steps mentioned above. The first experiment does not contain a focus question, however, students are asked to make predictions and reason them. Next, the experiment steps are stated and students are presupposed to draw conclusions.
The sequence of the steps in the second experiment is worse as neither there is a focus question, nor students are encouraged to make predictions. They are immediately referred to the experiment steps and are asked about the results of the research. The sequence of the third experiment is ideal.
Students are offered a focus question, then they are encouraged to make generate hypothesis with reasoning their ideas, next, they are encouraged to conduct an experiment and finally they are asked to report results. The third lesson also follows the steps necessary for perfect inquiry based learning process.
Shedding light on the fourth lesson, students are not offered a focus question, they are not encouraged to generate their hypothesis, they are just asked to shift to the experiment procedure. The results reporting stage is present. Finally, students are encouraged to hand in the journal where they had to note the results of their experiments.
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Even though the model we have stated above is one of the inquiry based learning process models which may be used, it is possible to conclude that the lessons under discussion do not perfectly fit the model and miss a number of important stages. Lack of those stages may lead to students misunderstanding of the main idea of the experiment and their dissatisfaction with the process.
General feedback about the planned lessons
The main idea of the lessons is clearly stated. Students are aimed at learning the definition of energy, considering its production, utilisation, storage and transformation. Even though the topics considered while the lessons are different (pulse, balls, fruit battery, insulators and conductors), they are focused on one problem, energy.
The sequence of the lessons helps students understand what energy is, everywhere it can be produced, what objects can be used for producing energy, and how it can be stored. Students also get to know that their body can produce energy and that it is possible to create energy by means of fruits. Using the objects students know and consume every day is going to encourage them for studying science.
The teacher plans to provide students with a template of a scientific report that is extremely useful. Having a template before eyes, students can understand the steps for learning and the outcomes of those steps better. Furthermore, a teacher uses the journal as a tool for assessing students’ knowledge.
This method is useful for both, students and teachers. Students can always refer to the results obtained during the previous experiment while teachers can follow students’ progress and assess their efforts. Alvarado and Herr (2003) agree that the use of the journal as assessing tool in the based learning process is an ideas decision.
Students are predicted to fill out their observations in the journal, their opinion about individual and group work, their activities and the results of the experiment. The use of the journals helps students not just participate in the experiments, but also draw conclusions and think about the outcomes.
The lesson plan under discussion points to large theme, ‘energy’. Then, the plan stresses on the specific topics which are going to be considered within large problem. The sequence of the lessons’ topics fits the objective teachers want to achieve. Students are interested in the problem and try to be involved in the research idea on the first lesson.
The second lessons shed light on the fact that the objects which surround students produce energy while performing simple actions, usual for them. The third lesson involved unusual objects for producing energy. The fourth lesson seems to be the most important as it contains more technological definitions and terms students should memorise, but the previous methods help students perceive this information as a game.
Therefore, students should not have troubles with memorising things. Students are asked many questions before the experiment, during it and after. These questions inspire students for research, students are interested in the results, however, some lessons are not supported with focus questions and are not asked to make predictions, When students predict the results, they are interesting in getting to know whether their predictions are confirmed or not.
The main purpose of the sequence under discussion is to develop students’ critical thinking and report-writing skills. However, we would like to offer to point to the main idea of the web link at the end of the fourth lesson. In addition, Bell, Urhahne, Schanze, and Ploetzner (2010) agree that computer tools are extremely important at each stage of inquiry based learning process. The authors stress on two main advantages of computer tools.
First, students focus on higher characteristic of inquiry based learning process. Second, students can control computer system. Personal web search can be used as additional tool in the lesson plan under discussion. The very nature of the lessons is to help students collaborate while conducting experiments.
The experiments involved in the lessons are of the nature which presupposes individual research, but the discussion of the results should be implemented in a group. Therefore, group learning is the main mechanism in organising a working process at class. Students will have an opportunity to work in groups comparing and contrasting the results they have managed to obtain while pulse rate measurement, balls bounce testing, fruit battery making and comparing and contrasting insulators and conductors.
Journal filling out should be an individual task as students are to highlight their individual results. The results of the task connected with making a fruit battery are going to be similar due to the specifics of the task.
In conclusion, a teacher is aware of the main principles and techniques of the inquiry based learning process, and he/she uses those while planning lessons. However, some steps are missed that may influence students’ understanding of the main idea of the lesson, the task instructions and spoil the satisfaction from the lesson in general.
The lesson plan should be reviewed accordingly and the focus questions inserted, where necessary. Even though the structure of the lesson plan coincides with the one necessary for inquiry based learning process, a teacher should review the main stages and make those clear and understandable. It is important to have a focus question, stage where students generate hypotheses, conduct experiments and report the results.
Alvarado, A. E., & Herr, P. R. (2003). Inquiry-based learning using everyday objects: hands-on instructional strategies that promote active learning in grades 3-8. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Bell, T., Urhahne, D., Schanze, S., & Ploetzner, R. (2010). Collaborative Inquiry Learning: Models, tools, and challenges. International Journal of Science Education, 32(3), 349-377.
MaST Community Charter School. (2010). Best practice in inquiry based science: Grade Two. Web.