Science Pedagogy Philosophy

Education has reached a point where it is an art form in constant evolution. An approach to science through inquiry-based teaching offers students a dynamic and engaging learning environment that fosters curiosity, critical thinking, and a deep understanding of scientific concepts. As a new educator, I have spent some time familiarizing myself with the essential features of inquiry-based science teaching and explored its variations to develop lesson plans that are not only effective but also inspiring. This approach proved so inspiring and engaging that I began exploring its validity in other content areas, as I am convinced this approach can create a classroom that is student-driven, fun, and engaging.

Inquiry-based science teaching revolves around student-centered inquiries where learners are actively involved in the process of science. The process begins by engaging students in a manner that aims to capture the students' interest and stimulate their curiosity. It involves introducing concepts through an anchoring phenomena that connects to prior knowledge and experiences, setting the stage for the lessons ahead. This can be done with a thought provoking question, a video or illustrations, or a demonstration that sparks students' initial curiosity. Students then explore their curiosity by participating in activities that allow them to investigate the concept or problem further. This process should involve hands-on learning and collaboration among students, allowing them to test hypotheses, explore relationships, and perform experiments. The goal is to deepen understanding through active involvement. After exploring through student-driven engagement, students articulate their understanding and receive the formal language and explanations from the teacher. They discuss and reflect on their findings from their exploration. We then help students make connections between their discoveries and the scientific principles by formally introducing them to specific scientific terms and concepts. Students then elaborate on their own experiences and the formal learning by extending their understanding of the concept through further application and deeper investigation. Students should be offered activities that allow them to apply what they've learned to new but related situations, helping them reinforce and expand their knowledge and skills. In my own experience with the 5E lesson, this involved solving more complex problems, doing more complex research, and conducting more sophisticated experiments. Finally, students are evaluated via some sort of culminating task that focuses on assessing their comprehension of the lesson. One of the strengths of this approach is that we can opt to avoid traditional pen-and-paper assessments and evaluate students' understanding in a variety of ways, such as projects or presentations that also provide students with an opportunity to engage in self-assessment. This approach ensures students ask scientifically oriented questions, provide evidence-based explanations, formulate and revisit those scientific explanations and arguments, and communicate and justify proposed explanations.

As I built my lesson plans, I strived to incorporate these elements by designing climate activities where students first had their curiosity piqued by a climate video and discussed what they saw. Students then traveled the worlds' climates and were given opportunities to feel what each one would feel like and develop hypotheses about what the climates they are seeing and feeling. We then came together and discussed what we had experienced. During this time, formal vocabulary was introduced and students received instruction in each regions climate. I slightly modified the approach here and allowed students to modify their hypotheses with the new information available to them before sending them back out to elaborate on what they had learned. Students engaged in further research that was more complex and investigated climate data for a specific region, working in climate groups to develop charts about that region's climate. Students then presented their findings with their group before being paired with a classmate from a different region. Pairs were then tasked with engaging in comparative analysis between their chosen climates and were evaluated through a task that had them develop a presentation comparing climates using the data they had collected. I had the opportunity to attempt this lesson in my classroom. Despite some housekeeping issues that came with the trial-and-error nature of the activity, it went very well, with the vast majority of my students successfully completing their comparisons.

I hope to be the type of teacher who can use inquiry-based science to create a vibrant and interactive environment in the classroom. Ideally, I would see students engaged in hands-on experiments, using scientific tools, and displaying their data on posters or digital platforms. It will be louder than the typical classroom environment, but that is to be desired as the class should be filled with the buzz of excited discussions. Discussions where students are posing questions, debating ideas, and collaboratively solving problems. My goal is to create an environment that feels energetic yet safe, where students are comfortable expressing their thoughts and taking intellectual risks. One of the most important things I want my students to take away from their learning is that is okay to be wrong, as it is how we learn.

The developmental stages of students in the classroom is important to understand when developing inquiry-based learning as it is crucial in creating lessons they can successfully engage in and learn from. Students in the early elementary years, K - 2, should receive lessons that have more structured inquiries that allow me to guide their exploration and thinking. Activities should be designed to spark curiosity through simple, observable phenomena like changes. The middle and upper elementary grade level will allow for more complex inquiries to be utilized. Those that incorporate more open-ended questions and allow for greater student autonomy in the investigation process. These should be designed to be student-driven, while still offering complexity that allows students to learn.

One aspect of inquiry-based science that I think will serve me well in my classroom is its adaptability and how it can be adjusted to cater to diverse learning needs. I am fortunate to be in a classroom filled with minority population female students who strive to enter scientific fields as adults. For these students who are generally underrepresented in science, this approach allows for culturally relevant content that resonate with their experiences to be used as a tool to enhance engagement and accessibility. Students who require interventions will benefit from the ability to tailor the inquiry processes with supports, like visual aids or step-by-step guides, to scaffold their learning. ELLs will be able to access content that is hands on, allowing them to explore alongside their classmates and through group work that emphasizes communication skills and vocabulary development. Gifted students will be able to engage in independent, accelerated, and/or advanced projects that challenge their understanding in a more nuanced way. With each student, the overall lesson remains the same, but the manner in which the student accesses and engages with the content can be tailored to fit their needs without requiring too much extra preparation for the instructor.

This approach has allowed me to review and alter my core beliefs with regard to science education. The inquiry-based approach has allowed me to develop a philosophy for science education that follows three central tenets. My approach should be inclusive, spark curiosity, and encourage rigorous intellectual engagement from my students. By structuring my classroom around the principles of inquiry, supporting developmental and individual needs, and creating an environment that celebrates scientific discourse, discovery, and the ability to take risks and learn from mistakes, I hope to put my students into positions that allow them to increase their knowledge and develop a lifelong passion for science.