Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is a student-centered Pedagogic strategy, a process that is ideally led by students. This strategy aims to teach students science by doing it, to attain conceptual change, or accommodate new knowledge, as Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development claims. To achieve that, students work collaboratively. Build on previous knowledge and one another’s work engaging in active self-directed learning. Find resources, means, and use tools, based on their own formulated questions, and discover appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. Each inquiry leads to the creation of new questions and ideas. This process of exploration of the world around them, lead the learners to questions and discoveries in the seeking of new understandings. However, to ensure in an inquiry learning environment, the process the learner undergoes, of transforming information and data into useful knowledge, must be facilitated (Scaffolds) by teachers, or more advanced learners, taking into consideration the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), as Vygotsky defines in the social development theory; as the difference between what can the learner achieve independently and what would the learner achieve with guidance from another person with better understanding or a higher ability level, concerning a particular task, process, or concept. Several theories underpin the IBL approach; its roots in constructivism stems from social-constructivist theories of learning, holds the theories of intelligence, concepts of Learning Styles (approaches to learning), and favors with Kolb’s Learning Styles Model and Experiential Learning Theory.
In the guided inquiry learning activity, about diffusion and osmosis, the students are initially engaged through the use of a day to day phenomena. The air freshener demo. primarily aims to activate prior knowledge on some properties of matter (in this case air/gas). Followed by, posing some close and open-ended questions, to guide students’ previous knowledge towards the spreading of the scent/diffusion as a mean of scaffolding, and on the other hand, to promote higher-order thinking through introducing temperature and the fan as factors affecting the phenomenon. This, in turn, allows the students to partially build on what they already know. Similarly, the second demonstration, food colorant spreading in water, activate prior knowledge on solutions, the concentration of solute and solvents, and supported by teacher-guided questions. Further, the demo underscores factors affecting diffusion, as the students observe how the color spread faster in hot water. At the end of these activities, assisted by the teacher-guided inquiry, the students will formulate their hypotheses, share their conclusions. Eventually managing to figure out the occurrence of a spontaneous mechanism, moving from higher to lower concentrations. Students will then learn that the mechanism is called diffusion. Conclusively, they will associate the fan and the temperature to its occurrence, as factors not as triggers, and by such figuring out and learning about the passive process of transport during a diffusion. These demonstrations, supported by teacher-led inquiry, initially, allow the students to synthesize previous knowledge, and the new knowledge obtained through sensory observation, into a new understanding. Asking students to give real-life examples were diffusion occurs, promotes them to connect with occurrences in their daily lives, ensuring concept attainment. In this section, it’s important to note, students’ thinking is directed towards the lesson content is a smooth transition. “Conveys to students the usefulness and excitement of the concepts they are being taught,” by utilizing both dimensions of the anticipatory sets. Affective dimension, “Sparking students’ interest” with sensory triggers, followed by a cognitive process of activating previous knowledge and key concepts. This, in turn, allows the students to see and experience the relevance of real-life occurrences, to the concepts they are about to learn. Hence, contributing to enhanced learning interest. More to the point, “we remember better what we are interested in learning”. Thereby, impelling the formation of profound content knowledge, through comprehension and effective learning in an enthused environment. For the experimental portion in the learning activity, students will confront a problem “the sailor’s death resulting from drinking sea (saline) water” based on which they will need to experiment on potatoes and discover a new form of diffusion/mechanism – “osmosis”. After the students’ interest has been triggered, prior knowledge activated; the potato experiment entails material the students are already familiar with, in their daily lives. This guided experimental procedure, allows students to rationalize the observable phenomena (in this case osmosis), providing them with an opportunity to draw meaning from the data they collect during the experiment. Additionally, the experiment involves a set of challenging questions to guide students through the development of their understanding (developing and validating of hypothesis), on what happened with the potatoes, and how would this phenomenon relate to why/how the sailor died. What is more, the selection of a dramatic scenario – A shipwrecked sailor’s death – intrigues the students to the application knowledge effectively in new situations and contexts (de-contextualization), to figure out this relevant “out of context” case. As such the approach will be fostering, the practice of conceptual association between the learning content and their daily lives (interconnectedness); facilitating and strengthening the learning of content. Lastly, in the course of ensuring strong content knowledge is being built, the experimental practice guided and supervised by the teachers provides the students with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of previously and newly acquired knowledge and skills. Respectively, allowing the teacher to determine the level of comprehensive knowledge or skills attained by the students and accordingly provides individual support or more challenging experiences as needed before proceeding.
A fundamental aspect of lesson planning is to determine and articulate the intended learning objectives. This, in turn, directs the teacher’s instructional planning and what content needs to be delivered. Given that learning environments need to be conditioned to the learning styles, sound learning objectives not only facilitates the teaching but learning process, as well. Objectives are central to guide teachers when selecting methods of assessment, and anticipating expectation of how well the students demonstrate that learning has been achieved. When developing those learning objectives, teachers following Bloom’s taxonomy, need to include action verbs relevant to the desired cognitive levels, in both, the adopted Instructional strategy, and in the assessment sections of the lesson plan. This hierarchical cognitive classification focuses on outcomes and is implementable through the choice of action verbs aiming “to describe behavior students are expected to perform” while and after conducting the intended learning activity. Accordingly, concerning the presented learning activity, which stipulates clear learning objectives. Reflects a student-focused and outcomes-oriented instructional strategy describing observable and measurable expected students’ behavior, and meets the 6 levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive objectives. “Knowledge: The ability to remember previously learned material” achieved through the first two teacher’s demonstrations. Followed by “Comprehension: The ability to grasp the meaning of material”, reflected in the second learning objective – explain passive and active transport. “Application: The ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations”, depicted in objective 3: apply the process of diffusion/osmosis to explain both science and everyday phenomena. Then is “Analysis: The ability to break down the material into its parts so that its organizational structure may be understood.” Presented in objective 1- compare and contrast diffusion and osmosis mechanisms. Finally, achieving “Synthesis: The ability to put parts together to form a new whole” through experimentation, and involving the integration of previous knowledge with learning concepts, and employing collected observational data to resolve the challenge from the self-formulated knowledge. Finally, “Evaluation: The ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose.” Targeted mainly in two parts of the lesson plan; the lab sheet, complemented by the set of challenging questions, that indirectly help students bring things together in their minds and make sense of what they are learning. In parallel, it provides the teacher with tangible information on content/skill, knowledge and attained new understanding, through a performance-based and conceptualization rubric as a measuring tool. The closure is the second part directed to meet the 6th level of Bloom’s Taxonomy of cognitive objectives, by simply using a 3-2-1exit, initially intended to verify understanding, and providing an appropriate conclusion of the lesson. Conclusively, both, the presented activities and set of questioning elicit students to engage and interact with lesson content, using different cognitive processes, as demanded by Bloom’s taxonomy, promoting challenge and learning. (Module 11)
Another significant condition while developing active learning instructional plans, is to accommodate strategies with differentiation recognition. This is to maximize each student’s learning opportunities, according to the variances in readiness, skill levels, interests, and learning styles. Strategies for differentiating lessons include differentiation by content, process, and product, which are simultaneously addressed in the presented learning activity on various levels. Starting with the teacher’s demonstrations of the day to day events that students can relate to, and receive new information through one of the VAK senses, which is visual in this case, since students would be able to visualize mechanisms through their sensory observation, particularly during the air freshener demo. Additionally, lower level and ESL students are addressed, using language related explanations adapted to ensure terms and definitions meet all reading/language readiness. Likewise, to meet the different learning readiness, especially lower-level students, supplementary examples like that of the teabag and sugar (relevant and concrete), are provided to aid students to make a better sense of the mechanism being taught. Prior knowledge activation was used also to direct students towards higher complexity, in particular, the advanced or higher-level students. The later will be asked to pair up and develop analogies related to the cell membrane, using their knowledge and the experience with osmosis and diffusion experiments, to design their investigation, to prove how a membrane is semi-permeable. In other words, allowing them to drive information and knowledge through experimentation using Howard Gardner’s Ml theory, and at the same time addressing kinesthetic learners, assimilating and accommodating learners, to solve problems, and then combine abstract conceptualization and reflective observation. Lastly, the lesson is thoroughly differentiated by content, process, and product. It stretches students’ learning and provides them with practical proficiencies, in ways that don’t just spontaneously turn-up. The lesson is intended to build on students’ capacities to thrive in scientific literacy, as well as in future endeavors. (Module 5)