I love inquiry – obviously – I mention it in nearly every post. I’m also a co-founder of Inquire Within, a blog dedicated to the awesomeness of inquiry.
I’m not going to lie to you, though; Inquiry takes TIME.
You must hold inquiry as a core value; it can’t just be one of the topics of your course. You can’t pay lip service to inquiry with a flaccid unit about the “scientific method”
First, a confession: I used to do this!
A unit on the “scientific method” is code for:
this is the time of the year when I have my students do really lame ‘experiments’ that have nothing to do with science while forcing them to memorize a rigid and phony set of steps that goes something like observation -> question -> hypothesis -> experiment -> conclusion.
PLEASE DON’T DO THIS! IT DOESN’T WORK!
Make time for inquiry throughout the year in repeated iterations.
Take a deep breath, Mr. Rice…
I’ll be okay. Now, where was I? Right, TIME.
You must commit yourself to allowing time for student questions to drive the curriculum. Allow them to generate questions and design experiments to answer their questions. Then, if you’re really serious, let the new questions that they derive from one experiment drive the next!
Crazy talk, you say?
Rebuttal: That is science! That is how students people actually start to see the process of science as organic and creative.
When they dive in headfirst into the inquiry vortex and let it spin them around a few times before emerging intact, you will be shocked at how much important science they learn. You will have rich conversations about content. You will have discussions – in context – about data analysis, about accuracy and precision, about calibration and controls, about reliability and repeatabilty, and all of those other things that we scientists hold so dear, my dear!
Your students will never see science the same.