Home' Teacher : September 2010 Contents 24 TEACHER SEPTEMBER 2010
approach a change in teaching style. Going
straight from supplying students with all the
answers to giving them none at all is too
big a leap for most to be able to deal with
successfully. Instead, gradually introduce
change: small steps allow students to cope
with, and welcome, change until inquiry-
based learning becomes a natural way of
working for them.
By withholding answers, you can encour-
age students to develop the kinds of discov-
ery skills needed for lifelong learning. This
approach in my practical science lessons
is helping my students prepare for their
futu re working life. It's also helping them
to develop the ability to question informa-
tion they are given and to reach their own
conclusions. Changing my approach raised
some important questions for me, too. How
often should I do this type of teaching in
practical classes? Always? Sometimes? Will
this work for every topic? I doubt it. Is the
inquiry-based approach helping those stu-
dents who find science difficult or would a
different approach work better for them?
Does this method of practical class only
work if the more able students are willing
to work with those less able students?
I've come to understand that I have to be
very careful with the topic I choose if I want
to adopt this style of teaching. I also need to
be sensitive to the dynamics of my classes.
Not every class will respond the same way.
Overall, though, this approach is helping
my students to develop skills that will last
longer than 'the next right answer.'
Charlotte Seago teaches science
at Marymede Catholic College in
Melbourne's northern suburbs.
A version of this article first appeared
as 'Practically speaking, less is more!' in
Looking into Practice: Cases of Science
teachers' professional growth, published by
Mon ash Print Se rvices/Catholic Education
Office, Melbourne, as part of the Com-
monwealth government's Quality Teache r
Program. Reproduced with kind pe rmis-
sion. For the full set of ca ses on which this
series draws, see Berry, A. , & Keast, S.
(Eds). (20 09). Looking into Practice: Cases
of Science teachers' professional growth
Melbourne: Mon ash Print Se rvices/Catho -
lic Education Office, Melbourn e.
'When are we going to use this?' It's a ques-
tion students often ask, but in this case the
teacher has got in first. Charlotte Seago
describes how she changed the way she
works with her Year 9 science class as she
began to wonder what she was really teach-
ing her students and whether it was going
to be of use to them in the future.
There is, of cou rse, an underlying ques-
tion here, and the question is this: what
should we be teaching our students in sci-
ence classrooms that will be of most use
to them? Seago wants to teach students to
think for themselves. Yes, that's brave, and
certainly more time consuming than if she
does the thinking for her students, but it's
also of much greater benefit to them in the
Seago is essentially generating a need to
know in her students by asking them to do
an experiment in an effort to find the out-
come as opposed to confirming the outcome.
Needing to know is a powerful motivator for
students. It provides purpose for completing
an experiment, in this instance, and suggests
that knowing something about the science
concepts involved is worthwhile. Seago
presents experiments in such a way that she
turns them into genuine investigations rather
than exercises in following instructions to
achieve the same outcome as everyone else in
the classroom. It highlights the necessity for
students to observe carefully in order to cap-
ture meaningful data. It then requires them
to analyse the data to find evidence that will
support what they believe is happening in the
experiment, which may be different to what
the group next to them found. This could
lead to discussion about how the experi-
ments are carried out, how observations are
made, the reliability and validity of data, and
how scientists communicate their findings.
What Seago is really teaching are tools
for learning, exploring and communicating
in science rather than pieces of content. In
doing that, she's promoting some important
values of science education with her stu-
dents, specifically, to do with authenticity,
verifiability and community, to draw on the
work of Gaell Hildebrand.
You can see authenticity in Seago's
approach in the way she values validity and
genuineness in asking her students to carry
out a specific experiment that yields data
appropriate to what it is the students are
trying to identify. You can see verifiability
in the way she values processes and the dis-
position to collect and explain certain kinds
of evidence. You can see community in the
way she values the input of people in build-
ing ou r social -- and scientific -- world, and
in the way she does that by working collabo-
ratively in, and with, communities.
Teaching, and really teaching
HERE'S A SIMPLE QUESTION: WHAT SHOULD WE BE TEACHING OUR STUDENTS IN SCIENCE CLASSROOMS
THAT WILL BE OF MOST USE THEM? THE ANSWER, AS STEPHEN KEAST AND REBECCA COOPER EXPLAIN, IS
TO TEACH THEM TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES, BUT THAT'S NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS.
Links Archive August 2010 October 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page