Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Five E’s of Inquiry-Based Instruction: DEN SCIcon Keynote Patti Duncan

Our very own PA DEN Guru, Patti Duncan, opens the Second Annual DEN SCIcon with the Five E's of Inquiry-Based Instruction. Patti is also the PA DEN Events Chair and Discovery keeps her very busy sharing her expertise across the country. Patti is a respected STEM educator and lead science presenter who does fantastic work in and out of the classroom promoting excellence in learning with Discovery products. Today there are live in-person events across the country as well as the virtual conference. It's not too late to join us. Register here for a tremendous day of professional development.

Click here to download Patti’s presentation.

Scientific Inquiry: way of thinking and learning
Patti began by stating that Scientific Inquiry is what drives the science community as a way of developing children's use of their scientific skills. It doesn't mean just hands on; it means doing activities and presenting content in a way that promotes critical thinking skills.

The 5 E's look very linear, but in actuality, they are very fluid because all the E's are physical and "flowy" and should be. Engagement in the classroom does not mean entertainment, unless it's your style. We are discussing how students are activitating their schema or prior knowledge, and discussion, despite whatever opener you use, discussion is critical.


Engage = engagement and the goal is to generate curiosity. That could be an image, a question, identifying a problem, a discussion starter. Critical is kickoff with an activity that pulls the students in by activating prior knowledge. You could use animations, clip art, video clip (from Discoverystreaming, of course), a short scientific or academic demonstration, things FUN-damental. A discussion should always be a part of the media engagement.



When it comes to inquiry, nothing is better than exploration. It is at the heart of learning science. Examples of exploration include DE Explorations and FUN-damentals that lead to true exploration especially in a lab environment. They need to go beyond a series of steps to apply what they have learned. They should be challenged to learn how to do things. Physical construction of their understanding is critical, so have the students explore all the parts of the problem and what can be done to solve the problem.

Explain is where you build out and firm up what the students have learned. Students will never come back and tell you they loved taking notes, but they will remember the experiences you provide for them. A large part of Explain is Evaluate; you should be evaluating throughout the learning process. That does not mean you are testing, but you are checking in to see what they have learned. Use explain to firm up students' understanding. Before students can Elaborate and Extend, they really need explanation.

2 E's that work together are Elaborate and Extend, and they involve Apply and Analyze. Students need to know why they are learning a science and that includes bringing the real world into the lesson. Elaborate includes a range of potential activities that extend beyond facts but ties concepts together with applying what they have learned. Learning is about the students demonstrating their problem-solving skills by explaining what they have learned and how they have learned it. Good teaching doesn't let a learning end unless the students can demonstrate and explain they have learned in achieving a solution to a problem.

The final E is Evaluation. We should be constantly evaluating to see if students have met goals. You cannot wait until the end to deal with misconceptions. We need to see if we have given students enough. The ongoing evaluation that is necessary sometimes means we change our lesson plans to accommodate what students need. Students must be encouraged to self-assess, and that is a part of our ongoing checks for understanding.

Students learn best by inquiry, not by listening to us.

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