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A Program of the Virginia Department of Education

Inquiry in the Science Classroom

Course Description

This interactive e-learning experience is intended for new and veteran science teachers of students in grades 3–8 (ages 8–14). In this course, teachers will build a foundation for scientific inquiry. They will explore the rationale and research basis, common misconceptions, and specific strategies for incorporating scientific inquiry into science learning, regardless of the science discipline. The course explains and demonstrates the Scientific Inquiry Phases with relevant classroom examples. In addition, teachers will learn best practices for improving scientific inquiry through interactive activities.

Course Goals

  • Learn about scientific inquiry and understand the benefits and misconceptions.
  • Examine examples of scientific inquiry in the classroom.
  • Identify Scientific Inquiry Phases and see how habits of mind are woven into each phase.
  • Understand the foundations of scientific knowledge and how students can apply habits of mind to further that knowledge.
  • Explore the essential scientific process, information literacy, and research skills needed to support the Scientific Inquiry Phases.
  • Understand the phases of scientific inquiry in the classroom.
  • Review science standards to identify scientific inquiry and concept standards appropriate for planning.
  • Learn how to design a scientific inquiry project using the Scientific Inquiry Phases.
  • Plan formative and summative assessment of scientific inquiry practices and science concepts.
  • Learn how conventional classroom science activities can be modified to develop inquiry practices.
  • Understand how to create a community of learners that focuses on scientific inquiry.
  • Explore methods for constructive scientific discourse in the classroom.
  • Review strategies for teaching inquiry practices and habits of mind.
  • Explore online resources and digital tools that support the collection and organization of data.
  • Examine methods for using technology to draw meaning from data.
  • Investigate online resources and digital tools for presenting and discussing data conclusions.

Course Length

This facilitated course is divided into six modules: an orientation module and five content-based modules. The time for completing each module is estimated to be 4–6 hours, and the
total amount of time required for the entire course is estimated to be 30 hours.

Course Requirements

Successful completion of the course will be based on the following requirements:

  • Participants must complete the course activities and readings in each module.
  • Participants must post at least three times in each module discussion forum (their post and a reply to two other posts).
  • Participants must complete the course’s final action plan project and submit a summary on the discussion board.

Discussion Participation

Participants are required to post a minimum of three substantive posts in each discussion forum. Participants will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their discussion board participation. Postings will be reviewed based on their relevance, demonstrated understanding of course concepts, examples cited, overall quality, degree to which they extend the discussion, and tone.

Final Action Plan Project

As a final project, participants will complete an action plan for incorporating course concepts in their own classrooms. Participants are expected to work independently on the final action plan project throughout the course. Each participant is expected to submit a summary of their “Inquiry in the Science Classroom” plan on the discussion board at the end of Module 5.

Course Modules

Module 1: Introduction to Scientific Inquiry

In this Module, you will learn about scientific inquiry and how it can be integrated into other approaches to doing science. You will come to understand how scientific inquiry can benefit students and see examples of scientific inquiry in classrooms. You will have an opportunity to explore ways to use the Scientific Inquiry Phases and see how habits of mind support these phases. Finally, you will meet two teachers, Ken Newton and Jennifer Watson, whose students are developing scientific inquiry practices.

Module 2: Phases of Scientific Inquiry

In this Module, you will explore elements of scientific knowledge essential for successful scientific inquiry learning. Through examples, you will examine the Scientific Inquiry Phases and learn how to support habits of mind and higher levels of student-directed scientific inquiry. You will also learn the science process, information literacy, and research skills necessary for scientific inquiry.

Module 3: Instructional Design for Scientific Inquiry
In Module 3, you will think about how you can design open inquiry experiences, integrate scientific inquiry into your curriculum, and assess students learning of inquiry practices and scientific concepts.

Module 4: Scientific Inquiry in the Classroom
In Module 4, you will explore practical strategies to make scientific inquiry work in your classroom. You will learn how to manage inquiry activities and teach students the skills they need to be successful. You will also explore how to promote scientific discourse in a learning community and examine strategies for teaching scientific inquiry practices and habits of mind.

Module 5: Technology that Supports Scientific Inquiry
Technology provides many new options to collect, organize, and display complex data in visually rich and compelling ways. In this Module, you will explore how technology supports and enhances inquiry practices. You will also learn about specific tools that scientists currently use and how they can be integrated into your science classroom. In addition, you will explore how technology can be used to foster communication and collaboration while your students engage in scientific inquiry.

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