THE ART OF IN­QUIRY AS AN EF­FEC­TIVE TEACH­ING STRAT­EGY

Sun.Star Pampanga - - PERSPECTIVE! -

MARIDETH G. LISING

A strat­egy in teach­ing every sub­ject is iden­ti­fied as in­quiry grew out of the work of J. Richard Such­man, be­gun is 1957 at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois. The ma­te­ri­als that Such­man es­tab­lished were de­signed to train stu­dents in the “art of in­quiry,” en­abling them to ini­ti­ate and di­rect their own in­quiries. Such­man was con­cerned that most stu­dents who en­ter school as nat­u­ral in­quir­ers with sev­eral years of preschool ex­pe­ri­ence in op­er­at­ing ob­jects and who form con­cepts based on this ex­pe­ri­ence lose this abil­ity in school. In school, a dif­fer­ent kind of learn­ing took place, in which stu­dents were ex­pected to keep in step with their classes and were not ex­pected to “fool around” with ma­te­ri­als and ideas. Stu­dents were re­warded for giv­ing the right an­swers; they were ex­pected to lis­ten and to read what they were told to read. They were rarely given the op­por­tu­nity to make de­ci­sions or draw their own con­clu­sions. Such­man’s re­search showed that as stu­dents moved up through the el­e­men­tary grades, they asked fewer ques­tions, pro­posed fewer hy­pothe­ses, and be­came less in­de­pen­dent in their think­ing.

In re­ply to his find­ings, Such­man de­vel­oped a se­ries of short film loops, each of which pre­sented a dis­crepant event in every sub­ject. Stu­dent view the film and be­gin to for­mu­late ques­tions about the event. They must phrase their ques­tions in ways that per­mit them to gather data; the teacher may re­spond to their ques­tions with an­swers of ei­ther “yes” or “no”. As pupils gather data in this way, they be­gin the process of the­ory gen­er­a­tion, which helps them un­der­stand the phe­nom­ena in the film. While con­duct­ing th­ese in­quiries, stu­dents use con­cepts of mea­sure­ment, mass, weight, mo­tion, and pres­sure.

The strat­egy in teach­ing any sub­jects cur­rently termed in­quiry has evolved be­yond its orig­i­nal method­ol­ogy. Now al­most any ex­pe­ri­ence that in­vites stu­dents to “mess around” with ma­te­ri­als is of­ten called in­quiry, whether stu­dents are helped to make mean­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ence or not. Per­haps such in­ap­pro­pri­ate ap­pli­ca­tions of the orig­i­nal in­tent of in­quiry teach­ing ac­count for its loss of fa­vor with public school of­fi­cials. In­quiry teach­ing, like many good method­olo­gies, has evolved in both good ways and bad.

Teach­ers who choose an in­quiry strat­egy in every sub­ject would share the be­lief that the process of in­quiry is at least as vi­tal as the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered. This strat­egy, car­ried out in strict Such­man or­tho­doxy, would also de­pend to a con­sid­er­able ex­tent on the teacher’s knowl­edge of sub­jects and on their abil­i­ties to field stu­dents’ques­tions with ac­cu­rate re­sponses. The use of film loops in­stead of hands-on ma­te­ri­als and the teacher’s cen­ter-stage di­rec­tion of all ques­tions and an­swers in data gath­er­ing made this strat­egy ap­peal­ing to teach­ers who wanted to em­pha­size in­quiry learn­ing but also wanted to ex­er­cise ex­ten­sive con­trol of the process.

Vari­a­tions of in­quiry teach­ing are widely pro­moted to­day in sev­eral forms (“prob­lem-solv­ing strate­gies,” ”dis­cov­ery strate­gies,” and oth­ers) by lead­ing sci­ence ed­u­ca­tors.

— oOo— The au­thor is SST I at Ca­machiles Na­tional High School, Divi­sion of Ma­bal­a­cat City

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