Alaska Sea Grant

Inquiry as a Teaching Strategy

Student examining artificial aquatic habitat - Photo courtesy of Reid BrewerThe Alaska Seas and Watersheds curriculum was designed to be inquiry based. Each unit includes activities that allow students to be actively involved in their own learning to construct meaning and understanding, as opposed to all knowledge and content being conveyed by the teacher. We have included the use of Science notebooks throughout the units to encourage teachers to promote inquiry and allow students to learn to write about science, articulate their thoughts, feelings, questions and ideas, and to begin to think like scientists.

We chose to use the 5Es Instructional Model for lesson design. This approach allows investigations to build on student previous knowledge, and provides opportunities for students to ask questions, draw their own conclusions, explain, make predictions, observe, describe, and/or communicate. The following phases are included in the 5Es model:

Engagement
Each investigation begins with an activity that provides an opportunity for students to share what they already know about the topic being introduced, and engages them in thinking about new ideas, questions, and/or explorations that are possible.

Exploration
Students explore the concept or skill by conducting experiments, completing research, engaging in activities or simulations, or design and implement an investigation.

Explanation
This phase occurs after the exploration of the concept. Teachers may provide opportunities for students to explain their knowledge of the concept, or use this phase to offer more explanation to students to allow them to develop deeper understanding.

Elaboration
It is important for students to be able to apply what they have learned to new situations and experiences, so they can continue to develop a firm understanding of the concept. Opportunities for students to discuss, share, and communicate their skills, knowledge and understanding.

Evaluation
This phase allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the topic in authentic and meaningful ways. It is also a time for student reflection. Teacher can evaluate student progress toward achieving the enduring understandings of the unit.

For more information about the 5Es approach, visit the following:

Inquiry Resources

National Science Education Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry gives a good explanation of the fundamental concepts and abilities involved with inquiry that were emphasized in these standards. The Next Generation Science Standards continue the emphasis on scientific inquiry "practices," which are defined as formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation but they also emphasize engineering design involving the formulation of a problem that can be solved through designing engineered solutions.

The Alaska Science Content Standards

Standard A: Science as Inquiry and Process

SA Students develop an understanding of the processes and applications of scientific inquiry.

SA1 Students develop an understanding of the processes of science used to investigate problems, design and conduct repeatable scientific investigations, and defend scientific arguments.

SA2 Students develop an understanding that the processes of science require integrity, logical reasoning, skepticism, openness, communication, and peer review.

SA3 Students develop an understanding that culture, local knowledge, history, and interaction with the environment contribute to the development of scientific knowledge, and that local applications provide opportunity for understanding scientific concepts and global issues.

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