Teaching Science Methods Online: Myths about Inquiry-Based Online Learning

By Miller, Kenneth W. | Science Educator, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Teaching Science Methods Online: Myths about Inquiry-Based Online Learning


Miller, Kenneth W., Science Educator


The author addresses six myths about inquiry-based online science delivery and offers some strategies to demonstrate effective online science teaching.

Introduction

With universities , teacher education institutions, and high schools gearing up heavily in online course delivery in every discipline, science educators specifically are asking themselves "How do we provide this access to our students and still maintain our pedagogical integrity in science instruction?" This question seems to be at the heart of a national discussion. The standards in science promote an inquiry-based approach at both the national and state levels, therefore, an arguable difficulty exists in adapting a reticent online inquiry approach that is more consistent with the excitement of an inquiry based faceto4?ace classroom approach. Today's students require coursework when they want it, where it is convenient for them, and how it fits their needs. Many students need online delivery because of distance from the university or their already demanding schedules. Delivering coursework using scientific inquiry techniques can be problematic. This paper discusses six myths about inquiry- based online science delivery. Examples of how to design and promote inquiry that is embedded in the delivery of an online course are provided.

Katherine started her degree from Montana State University-Billing by driving three times a week from her home and family over 50 miles away. The worst part was not the slippery roads during the winter or the twohour-a-day commute. The worst was that she often ran behind schedule to pick up her two sons after school in her hometown miles away.

David lives over 90 miles away from a community college or university. He helps his wife with their tamale company business which turns out over 600 tamales a week in a hometown kitchen, and he also drives a school bus route and works with the school district's technology department. David has a two-year associate degree from a community college, and he is also a substitute teacher.

Programs in teacher education for learning online have given both these students options to fulfill their dreams of becoming teachers that previously were not available to them. The benefits do not stop with the individual. Rural schools in the Northwest are in dire need of elementary and secondary teachers. The state of Montana is a perfect example. Montana is the fourth largest state geographically in the United States, with many of its 900,000 people living in remote areas, hundreds of miles from the nearest four-year institution. Many of those seek to finish their degrees in elementary and secondary education and teach in the schools where they live, but it is emotionally, physically, and geographically impossible to restructure their lives and families to do so. Providing methods of teaching courses online within their regions and offering opportunities to intern in the schools where they weave theory into practice helps these students to earn their bachelors or masters degrees and become certified teachers.

Almost every community college and university within the current milieu offers online course offerings, and science teacher educators often find themselves in a quandary. Coursework and scheduling for online delivery increases, and there exists a philosophical struggle between perceived appropriate teaching strategies that promote the national and state science standards and what many believe we are capable of doing in online delivery platforms. Given the plethora of online learning courses at most post secondary institutions, we as science methods instructors find ourselves discussing the issues of sound pedagogical delivery.

Mission statements of public universities have attheir heart outreach and accessibility, yet many state funded institutions do not provide, or cannot provide, outreach opportunities to their constituency unless those opportunities are offered online. …

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