Learning science is about making connections, about natural phenomena, how they work, and the explanations which scientists have developed. When inquiring about scientific phenomena, one needs to make connections between observations made and explanations for these observations.
Children should be encouraged to build connections between their observations and their ideas in order to help them draw conclusions with respect to what they set out to investigate. Connections are best constructed within a social context, as children explore and argue in favour or against possible explanations for their observations with peers. Connecting ideas to observation is an essential process when doing and learning science. Learning to make connections from a very young age will promote a better engagement with science.
Evaluation involves reflection, a process which promotes in-depth learning in science. Inquiry-based learning requires children to reflect on the evidence which they have gathered during their investigation. This evidence needs to be evaluated before reaching agreement on what conclusions can be drawn.
Evaluation of evidence requires the children to consider what patterns they can identify in their observations as well as how sure they are of the conclusions that they have drawn. Children need also to evaluate if more than one explanation can fit their observations and thus the possibility of having more than one possible answer.
Evaluation best takes place in groups as children bring different perspectives and interpretations of the same evidence. Evaluation also helps children to build arguments in favour of their conclusions and when considering alternative possible explanations put forward by others.
Investigations are most effective
Young children naturally inquire about how the world works. As teachers, we need to nurture this sense of inquisitiveness, instead of killing children’s curiosity and desire to try things out by telling them what we believe is the correct answer. Science provides the right context to foster the development of inquiry skills. Science activities in primary are to be based on asking questions about nature around us and to go about observing closely what happens, looking for information, and based on the evidence collected to construct possible answers to our own questions.
The teacher needs to provide children with a role model of how to inquire. Rather than being the bearer of knowledge, the primary teacher is one who, together with the children, asks questions, develops ways of investingating and making observations, based on which, it is possible to draw conclusions. Primary science thus involves the teacher and children inquiring together.
Inquiry-based science at primary level is a teaching and learning framework with implications about learning science, learning to do science, and learning about science.
The PRI-SCI-NET project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 266647.
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