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Science As Inquiry. Deborah Brendel Science Consultant Region 10 Education Service Center 972/348-1512 What Is Science?. Think about your own definition for science. Write your thoughts on the index card.

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science as inquiry

Science As Inquiry

Deborah Brendel

Science Consultant

Region 10 Education Service Center


what is science
What Is Science?
  • Think about your own definition for science.
  • Write your thoughts on the index card.
lifelong scientific literacy begins with attitudes and values established in the earliest years

“Lifelong scientific literacy begins with attitudes and values established in the earliest years.”

National Science Education Standards

science is
  • Asking a lot of questions.
  • Answering puzzling questions.
  • Observing in all aspects of our world.
  • Understanding patterns
  • Recognizing that there’s often more than one way to look at things.
science is1
  • A topic that requires creativity.
  • Realizing that what you see isn’t what you think you see and that what seems impossible has an explanation.
  • Using measurement tools to help percieve things accurately.
  • Problem-solving.
science is problem solving
  • Looking at things differently.
  • Guessing what will happen if you do a certain thing.
  • Approaching from a different direction.
  • Trying to understand how things work.
  • Trying different strategies before you find one that works.
establishing inquiry

I never would have imagined that it looked like that!

Establishing Inquiry
  • Black Boxes
    • You will get a box labeled A,B,C or D
    • Manipulate the box to determine what it might look like inside the box if you could open it.
    • Draw a model of what you think it would look like.
delphi groups
Delphi Groups
  • Location of the Oracle of Apollo in Greece
  • Revered throughout the Greek world as the site of the omphalos stone (the center of the Earth and universe.
  • Leaders would travel to delphi to consult w/ the oracle to seek truth and wisdom
  • Scientists that gather together in a search for greater understanding can be called Delphi Groups.
research supporting delphi technique
Research supporting Delphi technique
  • The Delphi technique is a method for obtaining forecasts from a panel of independent experts over two or more rounds. Experts are asked to predict quantities. After each round, an administrator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts and their reasons for them. When experts’ forecasts have changed little between rounds, the process is stopped and the final round forecasts are combined by averaging. Delphi is based on well-researched principles and provides forecasts that are more accurate than those from unstructured groups (Rowe and Wright 1999, Rowe and Wright 2001).
    • Wikipedia
phase 1 confrontation with the problem


PHASE 1: Confrontation with the Problem
  • The problem must be interesting and stimulating to the learner.
  • The teacher presents a discrepant or puzzling event.
  • The teacher explains the inquiry rules and procedures to the students.
    • The questions must be answerable by yes or no.
    • The results must be obtainable through observations.
    • Students are asked to make a prediction.
      • 1. What do you think will happen when you add two grapes to liquid that is in a glass?
      • 2. Ask students to make observations and record at least 4 questions that they want to ask the teacher about this event.
discrepant event the grapes of wrath
Discrepant Event “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Materials:
    • 2 grapes (remove the peel of 1 grape)
    • Cup of clear carbonated liquid
  • What will happen when you add the grapes to the glass of liquid?
  • Identify 4 questions that you would like answered about this event.
phase 2 data gathering verification phases 2 3 4 may occur simultaneously


Phase 2: Data Gathering - Verification(Phases 2, 3 & 4 may occur simultaneously)
  • The teacher records the information on the board. Students may also keep records.
  • The teacher must encourage students to think deeper about the understanding of the discrepancy.
  • It is always okay for the teacher to say, “I don’t know, but let’s write the question down for further inquiry.”
phase 3 data gathering experimentation


Phase 3: Data Gathering-Experimentation
  • The teacher may or may not have to direct students to determine the most relevant and important variables.
  • Students introduce new elements into the situation to see if the event happens differently.
  • Students hypothesize a solution to the problem.
  • All data gathering is related to proving or disproving the theory.
  • Hypotheses are confirmed or revised.
phase 4 organizing the formulating and explanation


Phase 4: Organizing the Formulating and Explanation
  • Students explain the hypothesis and organize the data to support the hypothesis.
  • Students should be able to determine how the hypothesis could be tested to see if data could be generalized to other situations.
  • The teacher may want to ask, “What would happen if…” kinds of questions.
elaboration possibilities
Elaboration possibilities
  • Will the grapes act differently in an five minutes; an hour; overnight?
  • Will grapes act differently in another liquid?
  • Will other types of grapes act differently
  • Will other types of fruit behave the same way?
  • How can I measure the density of these objects?
phase 5 analysis of the inquiry process metacognition


Phase 5: Analysis of the Inquiry Process(metacognition)
  • Students are asked to review the process they have just used.
    • Which questions were the most effective?
    • Which direction of questioning was the most productive?
    • What type of information was needed and not obtained?
    • How could the inquiry process have been improved?
    • Do you have other questions?

From K through 12th grade, inquiry is the thread that binds science courses and programs together.

NSTA Pathways to the Science Standards


Inquiry is the set of behaviors involved in the struggle of human beings for reasonable explanations of phenomena about which they are curious.

Novak 64


Inquiry includes activity and skills but the focus is on an active search for knowledge or understanding to satisfy a curiosity.


Focus on inquiry always involves collection and interpretation of information in response to wondering and exploring.

professional delphi groups
Professional Delphi Groups
  • Often times in scientific engineering, teams of scientists are brought together in order to work on a problem. For example, several teams of scientists will be given the task of creating a robot that will collect rock samples from the surface of the moon.
  • The robot must

Be durable enough to survive the trip

Conduct the activity w/ a high degree of reliability

Be under certain weight allowance

Be within a certain size allowance

Have redundant back-up systems in the event of failure in situ

  • The team with the best robot by these standards gets the contract from NASA to build the robot.
energy delphi group
Energy Delphi Group
  • You have been hired as a scientist by the Department of Energy to develop a windmill design that will be the most efficient in creating wind energy in TX.
  • You must present a model of your windmill to the director (your presenter).
  • You may use any of the materials provided in any innovative way that you wish.
windmill requirements
Windmill Requirements

The project that raises the washer 20 cm the fastest WINS!

  • The windmill must be turned by a small fan (provided) on a low setting which is placed 1 meter from the model windmill.
  • To show that the windmill will do work, it must lift a load of 1 metal washer the distance of 20 cm.
  • The example to the right is just one idea of how to complete this project. Your design may not look like this picture, or may have improvements on this design. Be creative and innovative!
inquiry fosters
Inquiry fosters:
  • Scientific literacy and understanding of science processes
  • Vocabulary knowledge and conceptual understanding
  • Critical thinking
  • Positive attitudes about science
  • Higher achievement on test of procedural knowledge
  • Construction of logic or mathematical knowledge
essential features of classroom inquiry
Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry
  • Learners are engaged by scientifically oriented questions
  • Learners give priority to evidence
  • Learners formulate explanations in light of alternative explanations
  • Learners communicate and justify their proposed explanations
truth or myth
Truth or Myth?
  • All science subject matter should be taught through inquiry.
  • Inquiry occurs only when students generate and pursue their own questions.
  • Inquiry teaching occurs easily through use of hands-on or kit-based instructional materials.
  • Student engagement in hands-on activities guarantees that inquiry teaching and learning are occurring.
  • Inquiry can be taught without attention to subject matter.
all science subject matter should be taught through inquiry
All science subject matter should be taught through inquiry.


  • Effective science teaching requires a variety of approaches and strategies.
  • Teaching all of science using just one method would be ineffective and probably boring.

National Academy of Science

inquiry occurs only when students generate and pursue their own questions
Inquiry occurs only when students generate and pursue their own questions.


  • The source of a question is less important than the nature of the question itself.
  • However, learning to ask questions is a key part of inquiry and should be encouraged.

National Academy of Science

inquiry teaching occurs easily through use of hands on or kit based instruction materials
Inquiry teaching occurs easily through use of hands-on or kit-based instruction materials.


  • The use of even the best materials does not guarantee that students are engaged in rich inquiry.
  • A skilled teacher remains the key to effective instruction.

National Academy of Science

Student engagement in hands-on activities guarantees that inquiry teaching and learning are occurring.
  • Participation of students in activities is desirable, but not sufficient to guarantee their mental engagement in any of the essential features of inquiry.


National Academy of Science

inquiry can be taught without attention to subject matter
Inquiry can be taught without attention to subject matter.
  • Students understanding of inquiry does not, and cannot, develop in isolation from science subject matter.
  • Students start from what they know and inquire into things they do not know.
  • Process skills alone are not enough.
  • Scientific knowledge is important.


National Academy of Science

benefits of inquiry
Benefits of Inquiry
  • Promotes active learning through problem-solving as students formulate questions and test ideas.
  • All children should use the inquiry process to increase their thinking capabilities.
  • Inquiry should be used in all subject areas; any topic that can be formulated as a puzzling situation is a candidate.
benefits of inquiry1
Benefits of Inquiry
  • Brings the real world into the classroom and into students’ lives
  • Promotes teamwork and collaboration
  • Accommodates different learning styles
  • Students’ grasp of new concepts and skills is reflected in their work during the activity.
avoiding activitymania
Avoiding Activitymania
  • Content drives the activity, not the other way around.
  • Direct teaching is an important component of the learning cycle (Explain).
  • Without direct instruction, students struggle to transfer their concrete experience to abstract assessment items.
  • Direct teaching should expand on the content discussed in the engagement and relate to prior learning and connectivity to other content.
dropping in the journey of a water droplet
Dropping in – The Journey of a water droplet.
  • Complete the water cycle journey by visiting the stations and recording your stops in your journal.
  • Window Pane
  • 2.10A describe and illustrate the water cycle
  • 3.7B identify matter as liquids, solids, and gasses
  • 3/4.3C represent the natural world using models and identifying their limitations
adapt to survive thrive
Adapt to Survive & Thrive
  • Sticky Trait
  • Read the Content
  • Complete the Sorting Mat
  • Conduct the card game
  • If time Trait or Taught card game.
elementary science average items correct by objective
ELEMENTARY SCIENCEAverage Items Correct By Objective

OBJECTIVES 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

1: Nature of Science 76% 83% 86% 87% 85%

2: Life Sciences 74% 79% 81% 85% 85%

3: Physical Sciences 66% 74% 78% 80% 85%

4: Earth Sciences 53% 60% 67% 69% 73%

step 1 align
Step #1 -- ALIGN
  • To the TEKS!
    • Pick and choose sections of your textbook--don’t try to teach the whole book
    • “Clump” TEKS together around topic themes
  • Vertically
    • Talk to the grades above and below
  • Horizontally
    • How does science relate to other content
    • To different fields of science
step 2 teach
Step #2 -- TEACH
  • Are students really “Doing” Inquiry-based Science?
  • Do students
    • View themselves as scientists?
    • Exhibit curiosity?
    • Propose explanations?
    • Raise questions?
    • Use observation?
step 3 assess for deep understanding
Step #3 -- ASSESS for Deep Understanding
  • Use embedded assessment DAILY
    • Listen to the discussion in student workgroups
    • Observe students’ ease in carrying out investigations
    • Use feedback mechanisms and safety nets
  • Benchmark RARELY
what can teachers do
What Can Teachers Do?
  • REVIEW ALL TEKS Statements
    • Interpret each into learning experiences for students
  • Attend Staff Development in identified areas of need
  • TEACH THE TEKS: Determine what mastery would “look like” in the classroom
what can teachers do continued
What Can Teachers Do? (continued)
  • Think about interventions that might be used with struggling students
  • Develop a variety of ways to explore the Student Expectations
  • Stay away from “test prep” materials
  • Use technology often
  • TEKS Toolkit:
  • Texas Science
  • Region 10 Science
  • Science Teachers Assoc. of
contact information
Contact Information

Deborah Brendel

Science Consultant

Region 10 ESC