Science Inquiry in Pennsylvania Elementary Classrooms Connections to the Standards and Opportunities for Professional Development. Kathleen M. Jones Assistant Professor of Education Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA What is inquiry as defined by the NSES? Active construction of ideas and explanations Asking questions Planning and conducting experiments Gathering data Using evidence to explain Communicating results Natural Process of Science Question Observe Gather data Explain significance Sharing of results highlights significance NOT a prescribed 5, 6, 7 step scientific method, but rather fluid “Hands-on” vs. Inquiry “Conducting hands-on science activities does not guarantee inquiry, nor is reading about science incompatible with inquiry” (NRC, 1996). Hands-on, Minds-on Connects scientific knowledge and understanding. Communicating and defending their understandings. Science for All Americans Assumption that students understand Multiple choice testing Right words Over-inflated understanding Rutherford and Ahlgren (1989) Current Research Focuses primarily on pre-service teachers 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, Horizon Research, Inc. Research Question #1 1. Do Pennsylvania elementary teachers define science inquiry in a similar way as it is defined by the NSES? Sub-questions for Q 1: A. Familiarity with National and state standards B. Recognition of definitions when literally stated C. Recognition of definitions in context (scenarios) Results: Inquiry stated literally Mean SD Question 4.38 .68 Evidence 4.42 .71 Prior knowledge 4.60 .66 Share (teacher only) 2.43 1.12 Share with others 3.89 .91 Alternate explanations 4.02 .86 Inquiry in Context Open-ended questions: If you were observing a science lesson in the elementary classroom, what specifically would you look for to determine if it was an inquiry- based lesson or not an inquiry-based lesson? Mean 1.98 (very little understanding) SD of 1.12 Inquiry in Context #2 Mr. Smith’s class is up , moving around to various lab stations, doing “hands-on” activities, exploring simple machines. At the end of the class, Mr. Smith collects all the worksheets and the students move to the next subject. Is this an inquiry lesson? Explain What do you think happened prior to this lesson? What do you think will happen tomorrow in science class? Mean: 3.03 (Basic understanding) SD: 3.00 Inquiry in Context #3 As you walk into Mrs. Brown’s class, you observe a question on the board, “What do owls eat?” Some students are working on the computer accessing the Internet about owls, others are using the class library to find books on owls and another group are pulling apart owl pellets, categorizing the various bones. Is this an inquiry lesson? Explain What do you think happened prior to this lesson? What do you think will happen tomorrow in science class? Mean 3.16 (Basic Understanding) SD 3.00 Research Question 2 What is the relationship between self- reported familiarity with NSES and Pennsylvania Standards, recognizing NSES definitions of science inquiry literally and in context. Results: Self reported familiarity National Science Education Standards: 38% familiar and refer to them 3% very familiar and refer to them often PA Science and Technology 60% familiar and refer to them 13% very familiar and refer to them often PA Environment and Ecology 36% familiar and refer to them 9% very familiar and refer to them often Research Question #3 To what degree do Pennsylvania teachers agree with accepted principles of effective professional development? Results: Accepted principles of Professional Development Long –term commitment Collaborative work Reflection but… 79% also agreed or strongly agreed to having time to work individually in the classroom. Collaboration with others According to the 2000 National Survey – second most popular form of PD 33% of teachers are observing each other Pennsylvania sample 27% (some to all the time) 27% meeting to discuss science teaching Pennsylvania sample 22% (some or all the time) Research Question #4 To what degree are Pennsylvania teachers willing to participate in professional development activities that match accepted principles of professional development when the professional development is focused on science inquiry? Results 71% willing to attend summer workshops (daylong) 21% willing to attend evening workshops 16% willing to attend weeklong residential 62% willing to meet during the school year 35% after school 24% before school 58% during school 70% during inservice Reading and Math Emphasis K-3 classrooms 4-6 classrooms 115 minutes reading 96 minutes reading 52 minutes math 60 minutes math 23 minutes on 31 minutes on science science 21 minutes on social 33 minutes on social studies studies Pennsylvania results K-6 (not yet split out) averaging 22 minutes/day for science . Teachers’ Comfort with Science “Majority of elementary teachers do not feel equally qualified to teach all academic subjects with preparedness to teach science paling in comparison to math, language arts and social studies” (Fulp, 2002). High Quality PD Opportunities Opportunities to actively engage in inquiry based lessons Long-term commitment Collaborative approach allowing sharing and exchange of ideas Teacher-leaders Support for meeting during the school day Scientifically Literate Not everyone is going to be a scientist People need to be prepared to make decisions Need to understand how scientists work to solve problems Teachers are a major part of this goal and need the support to be able to deliver.
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