How to Teach Scientific Inquiry
Scientific inquiry uses evidence from observations and investigations to create logical explanations and answer questions. It requires critical thinking and scientific reasoning. Scientific inquiry combines traditional science processes with scientific knowledge and scientific reasoning towards a scientific investigation. Scientific inquiry encompasses classifying, predicting, measuring, questioning,observing, inferring, interpreting and analyzing data. It is an essential skill for all scientific students and should be practised early in students' academic careers. Scientific inquiry is all about harnessing curiosity; the key is to encourage students to think creatively with a methodical approach. Below we have included some helpful hints to help you introduce this essential skill set into your classroom.
1. Keep it simple.
A simple and thorough procedure is enough to teach students the fundamentals of inquiry. Allow students the freedom of creativity to design or plan sections on their own.
2. Understanding procedure steps.
Students will require some practice before they are able to write a whole procedure independently. To practice, task students with labelling or numbering disordered steps on a lab. Students can then correct the order of the steps and subsequently test their knowledge of lab procedure structures.
3. Identify a goal to achieve
To reach the ultimate goal of students writing their own procedures, ask students to consider what they would like to achieve. It is best to choose a lab students already understand the concepts behind and uses equipment they are familiar with.
4. Allow students to think independently
The next step is for students to determine what they intend to investigate. Provide minimal help to students during this process; allowing them to be guided by their own individual thought processes. A good idea is to facilitate small group brainstorming sessions for students to discuss and evaluate their ideas. Ensure students still have guidelines with regards to hypothesis, materials, how results will be tracked and safety concerns. Be sure to review and approve procedures; this will also create a sense of reassurance for students.
5. See the impact
Conducting inquiry-based labs creates more engagement and critical thinking in students when compared to traditional lab procedures. You should see an increase in student focus, curiosity and independent learning.