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Essay on Inquiry Based Discussion Strategies

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Discussions in the elementary science classroom are crucial to understanding scientific concepts. Unfortunately, the term discussions may lead us to imagine the whole group reading, followed by questions generated by the teacher, students restating what was previously read, and finally the teacher evaluating the students’ statements for correctness. This method of discussion is commonly known as initiation-response-feedback or IRF (Willington, 2011). This unfortunate scenario can be replaced by a more meaningful exchange known as inquiry based discussions.
An alternative to IRF is inquiry based discussions. Students are introduced to a concept and discuss prior knowledge before instruction begins. Students participate in small group discussions to prove or disprove what they know or what they have learned. They share their thinking amongst themselves and with other groups. Following group discussions, students may present their findings to the whole class. Because more students are actively engaged in discussions and are constructing their own understanding, this is a more meaningful exchange than teacher led discussions.
Teachers should allow time for students to participate in meaningful discussions for a number of reasons. One primary reason to make time for meaningful discussion is because science has a certain kind of language that should be practiced (Willington, 2011). Scientific terms are not used regularly in most communications with others. Many terms are only used in a scientific environment. In order for students to make connections and construct a meaningful scientific vocabulary these terms should be used appropriately and regularly. For example consider the terms: mitosis, oxidation, osmosis, and clavic...


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...ryday assessment in the science classroom (pp. 61-73). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

National Science Education Standards: An Overview. National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1996.

NSTA. (2010). NSTA position statement: Elementary school science. Retrieved from http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/elementary.aspx

Smith, M. & Wood, W. (2009, 01). Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science Magazine, 323(5910), 122-124. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/323/5910

Wellington, J., & Osborne, J. (2011). Language and literacy in science education. (pp. 82-102). Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.

Wenning, C. (2009, 11 04). Best and desirable practices of science teaching: A brief overview. Retrieved from http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/311content/best_practices.html



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