What would you do if suddenly all your textbooks, standardized tests, and classroom resources just vanished? This would certainly challenge your thinking about what to do when the school year or day started. This question quite literally leads into passionate interactions with the i-word.
Forgive me for preaching to the choir, for I know that those who read The American Biology Teacher and support the NABT with their membership are proponents of i-teaching and i-learning and basically i-everything. Yet it is not enough to be individual ‘‘choir’’ members in our individual classrooms singing solo. Choir members must sing with a cohesive and public voice of the value of the i-word: do-re-mi-fa……INQUIRY-based learning……so-la-ti-do! Inquiry-based learning strategies facilitate life-long learning, empowering our students to be the best ‘‘singers’’ or ‘‘conductors’’ in the upcoming ‘‘global concert.’’ But imparting i-skills takes practice, especially if you are new to the choir or haven't had a chance to learn this melody yet.
Opportunities to use peer-reviewed inquiry-based resources is what this issue of ABT is all about (and, as such, it is an invaluable benefit of NABT membership). The research behind the activities presented here will surely resonate with you, providing data to make you an inquiry activist beyond the faculty room. Parents, administrators, elected officials, and especially our students can more than appreciate the inquiry approach and honing questioning skills and reflection to pique curiosity. Not all questions are equivalent: asking who discovered mitochondria is not nearly as potent as asking ‘‘How do you find out about who discovered mitochondria?’’ The whole thrill of teaching is the challenge to find approaches that encourage inquiry abilities and engage the curiosity of our students with the powers of questioning.
Without a doubt, you have questioned the value of teaching ‘‘to the test.’’ Let me suggest a few historical and contemporary ‘‘scores’’ that can be inspirational as background for the concrete activities shared in this issue.
Teaching as a Subversive Activity, a classic read from the 1960s by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, is available 24/7 online at http://iwcenglish1.typepad.com/Documents/Postman_Teaching_As_Subversive_Activity.pdf. I guarantee mirth and angst, but mostly stimuli for thinking and questioning.
Paul Kurtz, founder and chair emeritus of the Center for Inquiry, discusses active inquiry and the educated mind in a podcast interview that can be found at http://www.pointofinquiry.org/paul_kurtz_john_dewey_and_the_real_point_of_inquiry/.
The recent special issue of Science on education (23 April 2010; http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol328/issue5977/index.dtl) is a must read to connect science inquiry with science literacy. How many times have you lamented your students' difficulties reading a text, or how they have so many misconceptions because they have made incorrect inferences, or how you may have tried connecting prior knowledge and motivating questions to generate personal meaning only to have your students think that arguing is something that angry people do, which is quite unlike the meaning of ‘‘to argue’’ in the scientific context. Like I said, this issue is a must read –– for your own ‘‘ah hah’’ moments.
Next, take an incredible online video journey with TEDTalks (Ideas Worth Spreading; http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/42). According to TED, ‘‘there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.’’ Be inspired by 12-year-old Adora Svitak, who asks us to ‘‘create opportunities for children so they can grow up and blow you away’’ (http://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html). Then, if you doubt that children can teach us and each other, be amazed by Sugata Mitra's ‘‘hole in the wall’’ experiments (http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves.html). Finally, to recognize that ‘‘creativity is as important as literacy’’ and that we should give it equal status, check out Sir Ken Robinson's talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html).
There is always more for inquiring minds to explore, and no end to the fascinating results when your approach is inquiry-based.