Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Invitation to Inquiry

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Invitation to Inquiry

Article excerpt

Take a look at the photo to the right. How many questions could your students generate about it--5, 10, 20? Perhaps these questions could serve as a hook to interest them in a unit on light or the atom.

Too often, students are not engaged in authentic questioning. Dan Meyer, a math educator, explains, "Our curricula are full of pseudoproblems wrapped in pseudocontext. We ask students to grapple with problems that only sort of resemble the real world, using a problem-solving process unknown outside of textbooks."

"When have you ever been given all the information you need at the start of a problem?" he asks. "When have you ever had a problem broken down into easy morsels for you? I'd like my students to do the hard work of problem solving in a context that interests them."

A growing number of math and science teachers are tackling this problem by answering Meyer's question--"What Can You Do With This?" (see "On the web"). Shawn Cornally, a science teacher in Iowa, says, "The goal is to find a piece of media that is so compelling and real that it just screams questions at the kids. Real questions, not textbook questions."

For example, Cornally shows his students a visually striking image of a stratified rock formation and students quickly begin asking questions that guide the lesson, such as "Why are the rocks bent?" "Why does it look like a marble cake?" "How long did that take to happen?" He explains that this approach requires a pedagogical shift--a change from using graphics and movies to explain concepts to using them to generate questions and ideas in the first place. The teacher has to trust that students will generate useful questions and important content will shine through.

Cornally continues, "We are able to find and create almost anything we want. I no longer have to go to the Rockies to get these images." Flickr, Photobucket, and Picassa (see "On the web") provide thousands of images related to science topics. The Creative Commons search (see "On the web") is particularly useful for finding images for educational and noncommercial purposes. …

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