by Ruth Amos & Andri Christodoulou (UCL Institute of Education & University of Southampton, UK)
On 8th January 2016 we facilitated a workshop at the ASE 2016 national conference organised at the University of Birmingham. The aim of the session was to share some of our initial ideas and strategies on how the SSIBL framework could be used in secondary science classrooms, under the ‘Working Scientifically’ tenet of the National Curriculum for England and Wales. More specifically, the objectives of the session were for the participants to:
consider how they can foster open, enquiry-based science thinking and doing when Working Scientifically with their pupils
develop skills in encouraging pupils to ask authentic questions, identifying researchable questions and planning strategies for pursuing inquiries which matter to their pupils
use scenarios and resources on climate change and drugs testing on animals to show how socio-scientific issues, citizenship and responsible research approaches can be taught through inquiry learning in science
We had 36 delegates participating in the session, consisting of 23 pre-service teachers, five in-service teachers, seven science teacher educators and one masters’ student, coming from 24 different institutions and organisations in the UK and internationally (2 schools in Belgium and a higher education institution in South Korea).
The 2-hour workshop consisted of two parts. The first part focused on ways of raising authentic, curiosity questions in science classrooms based on the ‘Kinder Egg’ activity. Participants were given a ‘mystery box’ containing a Kinder egg and various photographs of environmental scenes, and were asked to work in groups of 4-5 and to think about questions they could ask in relation to the objects in their box (Figure 1).
Participants asked questions in relation to a range of topics (Figure 2). Some focused on the objects in the Kinder Egg to ask questions. For instance, a group that found a toy monkey asked: What species are you? Where do monkeys live? How are monkeys adapted? What is their habitat? Other questions asked based on the toys found included: Why does the toy car move? Does the Kinder Egg float? Was pollution responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs?
Other groups chose to focus on the materials the Kinder Egg was made of (chocolate, plastic, aluminium) and asked questions such as: What role do cocoa beans play in the plant? Where does chocolate come from? How do they get the shape and layers of the chocolate? Are the chemicals dangerous? What processes do you have to go through to get from cocoa beans to Kinder Egg final product? Some also considered the people involved in the making of this product (design, grow, manufacture) and whether it was based on fair trade and using renewable materials. Finally, some interesting questions were raised in relation to environmental impacts of the manufacturing process such as: What is the effect of greenhouse gases and CO2 produced during the manufacturing process? What is the local area impact
(herbicides/pesticides) effect on environment etc.? Is there a conflict between conservation and the production of [these] materials? What is the impact of recycling [of these materials]?
In the follow-up discussion, the range and quality of the questions asked was commented on, as well as the science that could have been taught as a result of asking these curiosity questions. When prompted to think about further links to ‘Science in Society’ they could have made, participants also mentioned the cost of manufacturing the objects and materials and questioned the use of plastic. We asked for example: What can we now do with theplastic ‘egg’ toy container instead of throwing it away or recycling it? One participant suggested we could fill it up with coins for giving it to homeless people on the street, an indication that they were starting to think about the implications of using such objects not just from a science perspective but also from a societal, ethical perspective.
The second part of the workshop focused on the use of two teaching scenarios, one on climate change and the second on the use of testing drugs on animals .
During these activities, participants were asked to take a position in relation to each scenario, to explore collaborative evidence for and against each scenario and then reconsider their position (Figures 3 & 4 ). We also discussed how they could adapt the activities for use in their Keystage 3 & 4 (lower secondary), how they could encourage their pupils to take action, and how they would assess collaborative skills and conceptual understanding during these activities. To facilitate these processes we provided participants with a tool designed by the UCL IOE team suggesting teacher prompts for designing and carrying out ‘science for responsible research’ inquiry.
Overall, participants engaged with enthusiasm and interest in the workshop and raised some interesting issues about the topics discussed (e.g. the ethical dimensions of drugs testing on animals) and how they could manage such discussions with their pupils (Figure 5). It was also encouraging that all participants provided their contact details for receiving the materials we used during our session and updates about the PARRISE project. One teacher participant stated that she was:
‘inspired by your workshop at the ASE conference titled ‘Really Working Scientifically’. I would love to use some of your ideas in my classroom’.
A teacher educator commented afterwards:
‘It was a really interesting session and a theme I haven’t really developed on our course. I would like to include more on this next year so I’d appreciate it if you could send me a link to your slides and anyrecommended reading’.
We look forward to developing this work further, and receiving feedback on the use of the resources provided to our workshop participants!