Levels of Inquiry Helping teachers help students find their way through the maze of inquiry practices using differentiated instruction.
Authentic Problem Solving • Problem-based learning • Failure analysis • Scientific experimentation • Technological design • Etc.
Each practice assumes… • That students know something about inquiry. • More sophisticated problem solving requires more sophisticated inquiry skills. • Lower ability levels of inquiry must be learned and practiced prior to employing higher levels. • Teachers must use instructional strategies appropriate to meeting the readiness levels of all students (differentiated instruction).
Sophisticated Inquiry Skills • Solving complex, real-world problems. • Establishing empirical laws • Synthesizing theoretical explanations • Analyzing and evaluating scientific arguments • Constructing logical proofs • Generating principles through induction • Generating predictions through deduction
Teaching Inquiry Practices • While inquiry is instinctive among children, their natural propensity is rather limited. • Authentic inquiry practices addressing real-world problems are many and complex. • How do we teach students to conduct inquiry at higher levels? • Assist with students’ metacognitive understanding of the inquiry process • Model and fade though a set of progressively more sophisticated inquiry practices
Metacognitive Understanding • Provide students with mental models. • Mental models: • are cognitive frameworks (e.g., road maps) • are alternative representations of complex patterns (e.g., rules of language) • provide for an understanding of the hierarchy and approaches of inquiry processes. • Hierarchy of levels can be used to deploy inquiry effectively.
Modeling Inquiry Practices • Start simple and move to the more complex. • There are many levels of inquiry: • Discovery learning • Interactive demonstrations • Inquiry lessons • Inquiry labs • Guided • Bounded • Free • Hypothesis development (pure and applied)
Discovery Learning • The most basic form of inquiry-based learning. • It is based on the “Aha!” approach. • A very guided approach to observation, pattern recognition, or conclusion. • Used with lower elementary school students.
Interactive Demonstrations • Teacher models investigatory processes • Teacher uses a think-aloud protocol to conduct demonstration (e.g., floating and sinking, defining and measuring buoyancy; finding it’s relationship with density, pinhole images, etc.). • Teacher probes for understanding, prediction, and explanation.
Inquiry Lessons • Teacher leads students through a simple experiment (e.g., Which variables affect buoyancy? How can we test this?) • Define problem • Define system • Identify and control variables • Teacher regularly speaks about nature of scientific inquiry.
Inquiry Laboratories • As opposed to cookbook labs (see handout for five major distinctions) • Levels of inquiry labs: • Guided - with lots of questions • Bounded - with teacher provided question only • Free - student guided from problem identification through experimental process.
Hypothesis development • Detailed explanation based upon substantial information • Source of buoyancy • Inverse-square law of light • How conservation accounts for kinematic laws • Why laws for parallel and series resistance hold • How Newton’s second law accounts for Bernoulli’s law of fluid flow
Levels differ by amount of: • Teacher/material guidance. • Decreases with higher levels of inquiry • Student independence. • Increases with higher levels of inquiry • Skills deployed. • Intellectual processes higher with level • Technology more sophisticated with level
Resources • Colburn, A. (2000). Science Scope, "An Inquiry Primer," March 2000 • Herron, M.D. (1971). The nature of scientific enquiry. School Review, 79(2), 171- 212. (levels of inquiry) • Wenning, C. (2005). Levels of inquiry: Hierarchies of pedagogical practices and inquiry processes. Journal of Physics Teacher Education Online, 2(3), pp. 3-11.