Term Paper: Teaching High School Science

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¶ … Earth-Science

Inquiry-Based Education in Earth Science Instruction

Creative Essay

The objective of this work is to discuss the experiences of a teacher presenting Earth Science coursework in the secondary school setting. Covered will be that which defines inquiry-based instruction; the development and demonstration of inquiry-based learning activities for teaching science; National Science Education Standards at the appropriate grade level; Classroom dynamics for teaching science in the secondary school setting; Assessment in Earth Science Teaching and Design of Curriculum; an example of an original high-school earth-science activity; an example of an original middle-school earth-science activity; Teacher presentation, lesson and activity objectives; Grading for science; National norm referenced testing for science.

Introduction

Earth Science is particularly complicated in relation to instruction in the contemporary classroom. This is because of the many political and social issues involved in this area of study which, in the eyes of many, is an area of religious import as well. Furthermore, the initiative to teach in an inquiry-based manner further expands the research and examination in relation to providing instruction in Earth Science. When considering a method of instruction it is critical to take into account the grade-level appropriateness in relation to the curriculum and inclusive classroom activities when planning the instructional lessons and accompanying activities.

The phrase 'engagement in learning' is a phrase that bespeaks of the students' involvement in their own learning process. In order for a student to become truly engaged, or indeed involved in their own learning process it is necessary that the teacher provide the invitation and provide as well practical activities in which the student can engage and thereby become cognitive that they possess a certain power or control in relation to their own learning process.

A wonder?....why?...What does this mean?...How come?...these all are questions that the teacher having asked the students will hear reverberating across the curriculum and will comprehend as being 'key' in the achievement level of student learning in the Earth-Science classroom.

I. Inquiry-based instruction Defined

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. stated: "The most important questions don't seem to have ready answers. But the questions themselves have a healing power when they are shared. An answer is an invitation to stop thinking about something, to start wondering. Life has no such stopping places. Life is a process whose every event is connected to the moment that just went by. An unanswered question is a fine traveling companion. It sharpens your eye for the road." (Zimmermann & Hutchins, 2003) From the perspective of Remen (Zimmermann & Hutchins, 2003) he most important provision the teacher can make through instruction is that of teaching the student how to ask appropriate questions that lead to the desired outcome of the student having learned.

The story is told of Albert Einstein in an advanced age and of how he walked around his laboratory mumbling with his hands clasped together behind his back. The story goes that those who knew him became very concerned. Finally, one of his colleagues leaned in to hear what he was saying and what he heard Einstein say was, "If only I could ask the right question." Einstein was cognitive of the importance of profound questions being asked. He knew that this type of inquiry was the true basis of learning. Inquiry-based instruction is just as it sounds for indeed it is a questioning of the student in relation to the material at hand and it is a method of teaching the student how to question the subject in a manner that leads to the outcome of the student having learned about the subject. The student's formulation of questions that are investigative in nature toward the ends of obtaining information that is factual for the purpose of building knowledge in the student.

II. Development and Demonstration of Inquiry Based

Learning Activities in Science Instruction

Inquiry-based instruction in science could easily be demonstrated through a study on the beginnings of the Earth and its' surrounding planets. This is a subject that thoroughly terrifies most teachers either because their beliefs collide with certain teachings in science or because the beliefs of students, parents, colleagues or those in supervisory positions are not in cohesion. This subject however, when taught in the method of inquiry-based instruction is one that allows students to explore and learn without the confinements that exist in other forms of instruction in the classroom. This is especially important in the study of science as so much new information is being daily reported changing the face of science at a rapid and unrelenting pace.

One method of providing the student a meaningful learning experience would be to relate the differentiations in the theories proposed by science and religion worldwide and then through the method of inquiry-based instruction to lead the student on an exploratory journey which allows the student to think, question and formulate their own view to an extent since science has not efficiently or ultimately provided a sure answer to this one specific question asked by all mankind.

III. National Science Education Standards and Grade Appropriateness

National Science Education Standards require grade appropriateness be integrated into the activities and information presented to students through instruction. For instance, one would not involve a middle-school classroom in certain chemical investigations that a high-school classroom might be considered appropriate for.

IV. Classroom dynamics for Secondary School Instruction

Classroom dynamics should be considered in instructing the secondary classroom. Dynamics include the room design, any special needs of students, and the overall environment as it relates to inquiry-based learning and instruction. Once stated was: "Quality teaching is the result of a continued search for greater insight and constant effort to improve new skills and procedures. It is achieved, if ever, by study, by evaluation, by experimentation and by revision of goals, theory and techniques in the light of new data." (Wiles, 1959) Indeed as the dynamics for the secondary classroom change due to differentiations in many factors then so should the curricular structure move with those changes in order to promote learning among students.

V. Assessment in Earth Science Teaching

The teacher should ask the question of themselves: "Does the instructional method propel the students to ask questions?" If the answer is no the teacher should ask what it is that they might do to stimulate the students to curiosity so that questions will formulate in the mind of the student with learning as the outcome in this questioning. If the students are actively questioning the subject matter and interested then the teacher can make a positive self-assessment. However, if the students are disinterested then teacher may know that the methods of inquiry-based instruction being used are ineffective and should be modified.

VI. Design of Curriculum;

Curricular design in Earth Science must be one that beckons to the individual student therefore it is understood that the curriculum in the Earth Science classroom is one that is diverse in a cultural/religious level as well as in the manners it may be presented to the student, of whom each is very differential in their formative and experiential self. When taken into account, those differential and experiential variations clue the instructor who is astute into developing different learning experiences through methods of technological props and aids, hands-on learning, lecturing the classroom, and reading instruction. Through these methods the teacher then has the opportunity to lead the student on a journey of formulating questions in relation to that which has been read, heard, participated in, or watched on a video or slide projector as the students do not all respond at the same level as one another to all instructional methods.

VII. Example: High-school earth-science Activity

One particularly popular activity in for Earth Science in high-school classrooms is a project that concerns itself with projects of planting in the town square or a park project or perhaps at the old depot that is now a landscape marker in the towns founding memorial. Whatever the initiative students are able to learn much in relation to Earth-Science through the process of landscaping with thought being given to drainage and soil preservation. The process of planting and growing as well lend to the student having learned in a participative manner. Furthermore the student's knowledge will flower along with the flowers they plant and like the annuals bloom time and time again as knowledge builds upon knowledge in the lifetime learning process of the student of Earth-Science.

VIII.. Original Middle-School Earth-Science Activity

Earth-Science in the Middle-School classroom has the potential to either bring the student to embrace or dismiss this knowledge presented. Presentation is 'key' to the Middle-school student. One very positive activity that easily integrates inquiry into the instruction and learning process is that of a field trip. A field trip to the site where sediments of the earth are readily displayed for viewing allows the student to grasp the import of the many years historically represented. Different textures of the sediments as well as the different life forms that can be seen lend to the teacher bringing out… [END OF PREVIEW]

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