Science is a foundation for continuous learning and not just about using tools and following procedure for an experiment/activity. It is a means to introduce and explain scientific processes in the most simple form. This can be realized when involving the children in such activities which increases their participation and understanding of the world around them
Science experiments should not solely focus on providing information and explanations for scientific phenomena, but should be carried out with the intention of providing children with the opportunities to expand their thinking and to create new understandings from their experiences
A teacher plays a major role in assisting the children to understand the observations made during an activity and how to relate the new information to the known facts. To simply put it, a teacher sets the path towards reasoning and deducing the solution rather than dragging the student towards the solution. This approach helps a child nurture its innate curiosity by exploring and engaging into the unknown which results in building a strong foundation as they continue to develop advanced understanding as they grow. The students must be encouraged to question, predict, reason and explain
The Philosophy of Inquisition-Inquiry based teaching/learning
The human endeavors has always been to seek the truth, to know and to understand. Hence our approach towards education must be to not just believe, but to know. This is what we seek in Inquiry based Education and particularly, science education. Unknowingly, we’ve all had our own personal experiences of this method of learning. When we were infants, we inquired about the world around us by our five senses. No one taught us our accent or what to like or dislike in our tastes. They were all acquired. Inquiry is a process of understanding and acquiring knowledge by reasoning i.e. by questioning. But the current approach to education has limited the creativity and the inquisitiveness of a child with the burden of assignments, no exposure to practical knowledge which can be expressed as rote learning.
Where are we going wrong?
In traditional classrooms, the student who knows all the facts and figures is remarked as intelligent. With the advancement in technology, acquiring information is not a great thing. Powerful search engines and millions of educational websites and apps can provide those. Today’s society is very dynamic, facts change and hence memorizing information is not a major skill. So the requirement is making sense and understanding the data rather than just acquiring it.
At pre-school level
If you were to take two magnets and show a child the attraction and repulsion of the magnets due to the poles, the child would definitely follow this experiment and observe. However, it would not be able to make sense of the complex scientific terms such as north pole, south pole, magnetic lines of force or any other terminology attached to it. Wrong teaching methodology, over-dosage of scientific terms that it cannot comprehend at a delicate stage like preschool, is going to hamper his overall brain development. The neurons in the child’s brain respond to sensory stimulation that it gets.
As educators, it is our duty to condemn dumping information or mere facts/terminologies to pre-schoolers. The sole purpose should be to simplify the world around the child and combine fun and learning so that the child comes closer to the world which is contradicted by the rote learning method.
For a better tomorrow..
Talking about science, an environment of questioning must be set up such as an investigation followed by reasoning and deduction which would further nurture observational skills in the process. This is in contrast with the thematic approach [the mainstream approach] wherein the logic of the experiment is leads to a set of activities in which the logic of the object of inquiry leads the activities that are taken up, with the teacher as a partner in the investigation and Not the one who knows all answers.
This can involve practical questions, such as experimenting to make a design for a percussion that can generate a sound, or to make sinking things float. It also involves observing, reasoning and sharing in the experience.
Inquiry based teaching process involves creating questions of their own, obtaining supporting evidence to answer the question(s), explaining the evidence collected,connecting the explanation to the knowledge obtained from the investigative process, creating an argument and justification for the explanation.
What is not true about Inquiry based education?
There are misconceptions surrounding Iquiry based education. The immediate example that comes to mind is that the process is merely a set of simple instructions which teaches the students to follow the scientific method. This is probably because the teachers themselves were restricted to work within the limits of scientific method as students and must have assumed inquiry based teaching as the same. What has to be understood is that the objective scientific inquiry is not just about finding a solution to a problem in a couple of steps but developing the problem solving skills through the process.
Implementing the Inquiry method
We have to realise that there is no absolute specific procedure or methodology. It can be executed in different formats such as individual or group projects/investigation, field work or even case studies. Hence it is clear that Inquiry based teaching requires a lot of time and planning before it can be implemented and not just something that can be put to place in a short time.