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McKinney, John1
(1) School District, Sedalia, CO

ABSTRACT: Inquiry Teaching in the Geosciences

The teaching of Earth Science needs to be more than memorizing vocabulary and completing worksheets. In many classrooms students simply imitate the teacher and recite facts on tests. With the push for accountability in schools, one must ask the question: Do standardized tests in science improve student learning in science? We need to look at Earth Science education critically, and create programs of instruction that allow students to think and be creative. 
In this session we will examine a classroom that is based on inquiry and reasoning. Inquiry based instruction motivates students to learn complex content, while creating an environment where students experience science and think. Guided questioning and other inquiry teaching strategies engage students with thinking in the classroom. The use of inquiry in the Earth sciences seems to have lagged behind other instructional strategies. This may be due to the infancy of earth science education, as we have only been teaching Earth Science in K-12 schools for the past 30 years. 
Creating a classroom for inquiry is not an easy task. We will examine several lessons that are guided by essential questions. These questions help students organize information and find links to what they already know. Another key component of inquiry is the use of reasoning. Giving students the opportunity to explore complex problems with a volume of data allows them to experience real science. The results of making science education more scientific are profound. Students learn that the acquisition of knowledge, and the actions of thinking and applying what they have learned is hard work.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90026©2004 AAPG Annual Meeting, Dallas, Texas, April 18-21, 2004.