The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Inspiring Investigations through Citizen Science Assessing Investigations – Classroom Case Study

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    • Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Bird_Academy
      What are some challenges you’ve faced in leading and assessing inquiry-based activities, and have you tackled them? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section below.
      You must be enrolled in the course to reply to this topic.
    • Anna
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      akleinsorge
      In the past the biggest challenge I've faced is how to assess inquiry-based activities when there are so many district required assessments that take up time.  Honestly, I hadn't really figured out how to incorporate assessment very well in the inquiry process.  Now my district is moving to standards referenced grading, which will make incorporating assessments much easier.  I'll be able to look at the standards that are being taught and take some kind of work sample, whether that's a picture of a graph a child created, or anecdotal notes about a conversation, or a final report, and assess if it's meeting the grade level expectation or not.
    • Jane
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Banjojanie
      The most challenging aspect I had with leading and assessing inquiry-based activities was- time. Content area units were taught in rotation with two other fourth grade classes. It was frustrating to be tightly bound by the clock. There were many times I longed to be back to the days of self-contained elementary school classrooms. If students were deeply engaged, I could monitor and adjust the time to allow extending science. It was also much easier to integrate units of study.
    • Beverly
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      bschieman
      One form of inquiry project is having my students choose a career they are interested in pursuing, and then developing questions about what is required to prepare for that career, and what that career actually entails (salary, hours, location, etc.)  Challenges involve the work they do is not very interesting to them...it begins as online investigation, and even when guided to career databases by our media specialist, they groan and balk at using those databases.  I wonder if it's better to start with finding a person who is involved in their chosen career and ask them questions before tackling the database work?  This might motivate them to delve into the material, once they see it in action.  It's hard for students to get excited about numbers on a screen...they need to connect to the flesh and bone aspects of the research first.
    • Deanna
      Participant
      Chirps: 22
      DeannaW
      My biggest challenge is the lack of time I get to see the students and the number of students that I have.  For example, I love to walk around and listen -- formative assessments but I see the students 2 time a week and most classes are back to back meaning that as one class is leaving another class is coming in --usually a different grade level. the time to jot down notes for assessment is extremely limited that way as well as the amount of work that needs to be covered. I thought that this next year may slow down starting with DL but if any ndication of the last two weeks --- oh my!!
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      CoachGoody17
      The single most challenging aspect of my job as been assessing students work. Our summative assessments are usually in the form of lab packets and reading guides, and our formative assessments are mostly tests which assess what they know/learned from the curriculum and if they can effectively apply their knowledge. We do some lab based performance assessments to see that students can safely perform a procedure, which applies their knowledge of the curriculum, to acquire a "desired outcome." Before Covid, I've felt confined to teach the curriculum, which left very little room for creativity and flexibility in science. Now, having the opportunity to slow down and concentrate on the skills a 6th grade student should have when he/she moves onto 7th, I feel like I have the green light to "chill out" and introduce projects that students are more invested in, while assessing those skills. I love the idea of creating a website for students to display their work. I am excited to get to know my students; truly know my students and the way they learn best as well as what sparks their curiosity.
    • Julia
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      j.hardy
      Challenges I face in leading and assessing inquiry-based activities are in the informal environmental educator role I have limited time and typically only see the students once. However, to combat this I have started working with teachers in preparation of the lesson, I get teachers to create an “I Wonder…” board related to the lesson topic and work with students on their inquiries. For the assessment, I am working on a 5-question survey that teachers can do with students via a google form after the program.
    • Cara
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      carafern
      Some challenges I've faced have been teaching in an informal environment and having the students for a short period of time. Disregarding that, I think it would be helpful to have a program that has teachers work with their students to develop inquiry that could be completed on a trip to our nature preserve!
    • Sylvia
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Sylvia_Qualls
      The challenges I face in doing inquiry-based activities with classes varies from year to year, partly depending on what background knowledge and experience my students bring with them. One of the general issues is time and maintaining workflow. It has helped to use a calendar that correlates with the rubric we are using. I do tend to like to create rubrics with students, that we continue to add to or revise as we are working. Formative assessment is really important, but since my students are 4th grade Language learners, they are sometimes more limited in terms of peer feedback. One way of addressing this is working in small groups so that students can bound ideas off of each other and build their projects together. It also makes it a little easier for me to provide groups with timely feedback. I really liked The Inquiry Continuum that was presented earlier in the course because it really helps to scaffold the process more easily without the expectation that students don't need to engage a complete "Open Inquiry" when they are initially learning the process of inquiry. It takes time to for students to develop the skills and conceptual understanding needed for Open Inquiry. I also think the process is more important than getting to some specific outcome, if that is not where students are at.
    • Nini
      Participant
      Chirps: 32
      Ninich
      I haven't lead many inquiry-based activities yet. One of my biggest challenges is about my own confidence as an educator.  I only hope that I can be true to myself as I share an interest in nature.  By modeling inquiry as I explore nature, I hope I can share it with others (especially during distance learning last spring.)  Supporting struggling students enough but letting them also struggle is an important thing to consider as I return to school this year.
    • Nikki
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      mswallacexth
      One of the biggest challenges have been keeping the project with the time frame allowed. Sometimes, the investigations last longer than intended. I try to now design projects that are able to shape their own timeline based on the interests.
    • Jackie
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      JackieScott
      I have struggled with coming up with a good rubric. I seem to change it constantly. I guess this isn't a horrible thing. I have adjusted it based off of my students and their skills. We have had a lot of students who are low readers and writers. So my assessments for submitting science fair papers has changed.
    • Allison
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      allisonmurphy
      My biggest challenge comes with limited time. Since I lead programs that are often only an hour long, I not only don't have time to formally assess students' work, but I often feel like I don't have time to facilitate inquiry with all of the content I have to fit in the programs. I understand this must be how formal educators feel with their own lesson plans and education requirements! While I often ask questions to the group, it's hard to get all of the students to speak up and voice their thoughts. I find that when I take them outside they seem to have more courage to talk to me or talk to other students that might have been all the way across the classroom before. Out in the field they can look around and explore what they are curious about. I'd like to move away from structured lesson plans a little bit and create room for deviation so I can follow the students' inquiries and curiosities.
    • Edna
      Participant
      Chirps: 26
      wvteacher87
      Some challenges that I have encountered are students not use to working with other kids and lack of materials.  One or two students may take the lead, and the other students sit and let them work on the project.  Sometimes supplies can be an issue.  I may be the only contributor of common household supplies (i.e. paper towel rolls, newspapers, jar lids, ...)  Therefore, group sizes may be a bit larger if I had to gather or purchase what was needed to conduct the investigation. Our school encourages the use of Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies which leads to excellent activities, but the teacher must intervene to ensure participation from "all" students.  I try a variety of groupings after observing student interaction.  Some students prefer working alone so it is a challenge to convince students that two heads or more are better than one.  
      • Nini
        Participant
        Chirps: 32
        Ninich
        Edna, I have seen this happen when helping in Middle School classes.  It is interesting how different skill sets and the strengths that a group of students have is not always appreciated by all members leading some to do little, while others feel the need to most of the project.  I myself can identify with this striving for a high level, but I have experienced times when a facilitator seems to 'magically' invite all members to share their strengths and this leads to wonderful collaboration.  My role is an Ed Tech, and I appreciate the art of teaching witnessed as I support a skilled teacher who brings a level of safety to their students when it comes to collaboration.
    • Pam
      Participant
      Chirps: 33
      Pam Hosimer
      My biggest challenge is lack of understanding about inquiry-based activities and/or the opportunity to use them. I will need to tackle this issue with information, education and patience. I teach nutrition education and work with school gardens in collaboration with 5 local schools and teach one-hour classes as a “specials” teacher. We have specific curriculum that is required for me to teach with but citizen science and/or inquiry-based activities are not part of this. In the past year there has been discussion that we are considering aligning one of our curricula with the NGSS standards. Now, due to the pandemic, my job is undergoing a transformation. Ever hopeful, I am wondering how to start interjecting some of these concepts and activities into the process of these changes. I was in a meeting last week with colleagues and mentioned citizen science. Everyone paused and then someone asked, “What’s that?”. My path ahead will be steep…
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 41
      Acorn Woodpecker
      Inquiry based activities seem like a great way for students to really be involved with learning.  I applaud all of the educator are able to facilitate this type of learning.  I really enjoyed reading how Mr. Kahler has incorporated this style of learning into this classrooms.  It is wonderful how he views this style of learning as a learning experience for himself in revising and improving his lessons based on his experiences with his students.  This level of self evaluation is amazing and valuable.  I also appreciate that students learn to provide positive feedback through peer review - what a skill for students to learn and practice.  This level of discussion elevates interpersonal exchange and helps each learner to improve.  I would really enjoy doing this type of learning, but in my current role, I have a short time to engage and interact with my audience.  Lots of people have commented on this style of learning takes a lot of time and their time is limited by what they need to accomplish.  That being said, I think if inquiry based learning can result in more learning then this time is well spent.  It is evident that inquiry based activities must be fully communicated within the education community to ensure that student experiments are not disrupted by uniformed maintenance or custodial personal do not understand what is happening.  Buy in and administrative support seem necessary along with understanding among other educators so everyone is aware of the learning that is taking place.   Perhaps education advancement needs to have teacher rethink teaching to further student literacy.
    • Sara
      Participant
      Chirps: 30
      SaraPi
      My problem is time too, since most of the classes I teach are a one-day, field trip format. Our lesson on the scientific process/inquiry has to fit in one hour! That's the inquiry design (with students), observations, data analysis, and sharing time. Even though this is super rushed, we do get positive feedback from teachers - the hands on practice we lead supplements the formal classroom instruction. How fun would it be to stretch this out over the course of a school year!
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 27
      jmckenna
      I have not had challenges with my guided level inquiry lessons with my K-2 students. One of the issues I see having when they progress to the next level of inquiry is managing multiple inquiry projects within one class. This includes time management, management of grading and conferencing with students and helping as needed. I guess this can only be done successfully when have participated in and have been successful in lower level inquiry projects.
    • Phanh
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      phanhnguyen
      From my limited experience with inquiry-based activities, these are the challenges I've faced and still struggle with:
      • Challenges in leading: + Time: These activities require longer time, especially for my students who are new to this style of learning, and also seem to have difficulties focusing; + Lack of confidence from the students to take up their own learning, as they often expect to be given the right answers; + Keeping up the enthusiasm; + Me trying not to interfere too much in student's process: For me this may relate to my own lack of confidence, as I suspect that driving their learning towards my ideas would be less scary to me...
      • Challenges in assessing: + Again, with students new to this style of learning, providing formative assessment takes a lot of time and seem to work better 1-on-1. But from my own education, I understand the value of providing feedback before students submit their final work. So I'd like to continue this practice, and would like to know if anyone else has suggestions for how I can improve it (besides the use of rubrics). + With open-end projects like these, does anyone have suggestions for preventing plagiarism?
      • Phanh
        Participant
        Chirps: 14
        phanhnguyen
        From further reading, I think I will try to incorporate peer and adult reviews to facilitate my marking of the students' work.
    • Alana
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      C.cyaneus
      Time is probably one of the biggest challenges that I've had, it seems that no matter how well organized you are, there is never enough time. Once you get going on a project, students become very enthusiastic and many conversations evolve along with further questions, all of which need time! I'm not sure that I have a solution to this problem!! (ha!)
    • Kandis
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Kandis+1
      When I am asked into a classroom or an afterschool program I have limited time with youth.  One program that I teach is called Bloxels, it is a video game designing program that uses pixel blocks for youth to create characters, background, layouts and animations.  They can choose their video game topic, sometimes it is a book they have read or something they learned in school or a topic of their passion.  After they pick the topic, sometimes they need to research it more to make sure that their games showcase their topic accurately.  In one instance I was able to bring the kids on a field trip to talk to game designers, they learned that all types of majors are important to game designing and the importance of being accurate so they can sell their games.  And then youth have to play each other's games and give feedback. I feel like this is the closest I come to teaching an inquiry based program but feel it is more structured or guided inquiry depending on the support the student needs.
      • Edna
        Participant
        Chirps: 26
        wvteacher87
        In talking with fourth graders, there is much interest in this field of designing games.  With our current situation in school, we are finding at our school that many kids are users of technology, but several have limited experience with developing a product.  We will use some of our in-class time each week preparing them to use various programs when online at home two days a week.
    • Nikki
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      mswallacexth
      The main problem I have is running out of time with students so that they are not able to revise their work. My school uses competencies such as lead inquiry or design solutions that merit the creation of rubrics to assess my students. Since we are also project/problem based learning as well, we are supposed to allow for revisions and that usually can take a group of students out of the project cycle.
    • Deanna
      Participant
      Chirps: 22
      DeannaW
      Time! Time! Time! The reality of the science education is to cover the topics that are needed for testing -- which are way too many to cover in my 2 40 minute classes each week. My heart and passion is with inquiry, (PBL) but i see that most often it is guided and structured. This year may be different and I just may do a full blown inquiry based projects for all 350 students who hopefully will not have to test this year--- and I may be retiring this year. Perfect storm! Rubrics are the way to go with assessing as well as a some presentation.  5 years ago, we tried an experiment at our school-- everyone gave up their reading block and did a full blown inquiry based science project connected to the Bay. The students loved coming to school during that time-- Some teachers were totally overjoyed and several were just confused. Overall the project was phenomenal with over 200 parents attending the Science Museum we had at the end of the 6 weeks.
    • Alaina
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      AlainaYoung
      Time is the main issue for me as an informal educator. I get a max of half a day with the kids, sometimes even less than 2 hours. There isn't really much room for follow-up, but I encourage further inquiry outside of the program.
    • Antoinette
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      ahatzop
      One of the challenges is remembering to use the open inquiry so that it becomes a good habit and happens more regularly.  Children are curious and ask questions and wonder, and I have found that the more we do it, the more naturally it becomes for them.  Assessing is more informal at this age.  I assess by looking at drawings and listening to questions students ask.  Pairing children and having them work in small groups also allows them to ask more questions and help each other with investigations.  Over the years, I have found it most helpful to teach across disciplines so that time does not become a constraint.  In first grade, we do have the luxury of having the students all day, so that gives us more flexibility.  It is important to get the students engaged and show your own excitement.  My other recommendations are working with another teacher and inviting a parent,  friend or community member who can share and help with a science investigation.  My hope is always to inspire children to continue investigating when they are not in school, which does happen often.
    • S
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Ladyhawk85
      One of the biggest challenges is the "mindset" our students seem to have about learning in general. I teach in a low socioeconomic rural community. While I can often ignite curiosity and excitement for science inquiry-based activities, it's the follow-through that is often the problem. As teachers at the middle school, we work hard on building a family mentality with our class. We work hard on mindset and perseverance is a continuing theme. There is a quick and be done attitude and that's good enough that is popular with our students. I really think the Citizen Science aspect will help. It will make their data meaningful and more important. I always have a presentation aspect to my projects and I think this is really important. When my students know that they will present information to other students and teachers, it makes a difference. I invite any class that would like to come and view the projects and I always encourage them to ask questions of my students. My students know their former teachers will be surveying their work so they want to do well. By doing this, I am setting expectations for not only my present students but future students as well.
      • Jessica
        Participant
        Chirps: 27
        jmckenna
        Valid points...changing a culture of a school or mindset of students can certainly be a challenge. This is especially true when this inquiry method of learning is only happening in isolation in your class.
      • Kathleen
        Participant
        Chirps: 41
        Acorn Woodpecker
        Good point that students need to rethink how they learn.
      • Nini
        Participant
        Chirps: 32
        Ninich
        I like your phrase 'ignite curiosity' and definitely agree with your observations of a rural school community.  I think that the inquiry based learning is a path which can help to bring more students on board, and I do wonder how it will be as we reenter the school year in this unknown covid place.  Does technology allow for better collaboration?
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      Curious621
      I have completed some brief inquiry-based activities but I want to incorporate more.  I am very interested in PBL and would like to incorporate more open-ended inquiry projects with my students.  Sometimes it is difficult to fit everything in with special schedules, assemblies, state testing, etc. but this year will be a game changer.  If I can't do many of my standard labs and activities I have some more flexibility to incorporate some new activities.  Since my students are at a private school, they live in very different areas in our community so if they can collect some data in their own yards, we could have quite an interesting sample.  I am a little nervous about the less structured learning environment but from this course I learned that it isn't really unstructured, just a different style of teaching than what I am used to.
    • Smriti
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Smriti Safaya
      In my experience with secondary-school students in international schools, one of the most challenging experiences students have are:
      • honing in on their own researchable question to inquire: I like to use "I notice that..." (with the older kids, rather than the "I wonder...", which seems to work better with younger students); because it already has some inherent thoughts about generalizations, perspectives, relationships, potential cause-and-effect directionality, assumptions, etc. --> all of which is great fodder for testing and the inquiry process!
      • giving meaningful peer feedback: the 1st step I want to support students with is recognizing their own value as a giver of ideas, thoughts, perspectives and voice, and how that fits in with peer feedback.  The 2nd step is showing that meaningful feedback is thoughtful, respectful and helps to also shape the reviewers own way of thinking (since peer reviewing techniques is a form of assessment as learning, it works in both directions: for the reviewer and the reviewee).  I use various rubrics, checklists or templates with varying degrees of detail (depending on the needs of the students), and tools/strategies to make the review process suit the type of project: (1) use of sticky notes, colour-coded highlighters, etc. for printed materials needing feedback; (2) "kaizena" or other voice-recording add-on tools directly commenting in Googledocs; (3) color-coded written comment functions in PDFs or Googledocs.  The audience and strategy for sharing also varies based on the requirements of the project: peers in different grades, based on interest, even working in the wider teaching, parent and staff groups within the school, and on occasion, with the wider local and global communities.
    • Annette
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      AnnetteSteele
      Time is always an issue when participating in inquiry based activities. I think, as teachers we tend to  think of projects that  fit into shorter periods of time rather than longer projects. Therefore, I am attempting to make the inquiry based projects my students work on last for an entire quarter. This way students have the time to  delve into each step of the investigation and can really dig deep into their investigations.  As I am not in a regular ed classroom, but rather supplementing gifted students learning, I have the flexibility to make this happen. This is not a privilege all teacher have.  If a project continues for a longer time it becomes easier to incorporate the ELA and mathematical standards that are taught during the 9 week period. too often I believe we segment education into separate categories rather than thinking of it as a holistic entity. Real world application projects that students will encounter during their adult working life are often slated to take months  rather than weeks. I think that if we are able to incorporate these kinds of tasks within our schools, we offer students opportunities to succeed in their adult life.
      • Nini
        Participant
        Chirps: 32
        Ninich
        I, too, am not always in a regular ed classroom, but on a different end of the spectrum working with Special Ed students.  I like your point about looking at things holistically and I think we could grow our learners to better understanding of the world by weaving their understanding of how things are interconnected.
    • Kathy Nerdy Birdies
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      kbalman
      I work primarily with the homeschool community and grading/assessment has never been part of my program because we are more of an enrichment/extracurricular opportunity for families. I would say my biggest hurdle with implementing this into my program would be time. We only meet 2-3 times a month for 4 hrs at a time, only about 45 minutes of that time is for our core lesson. My birding club only meets 1 time a month so again time is a huge factor.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      maroberts64
      I would say that some of my challenges with inquiry-based activities are how to measure the learning process and ensure students are learning for themselves when they are part of a small group, rather than letting others take over and do the work. I can see that a whole project rubric is as valuable as the final product rubric, to help guide students through each step of the process and to help me, as a teacher, assess each student. Clearly defined instructions established through discovery and discussion will also help me guide these activities. I need to break it all into smaller bites, and go one step at a time to ensure that all students are able to grow in the experience. I agree with Amy that time is a factor, so tying in Math and ELA will help, but we also run on a curriculum map, so we lose some flexibility with teaching. This is my first year in a Florida 2nd grade classroom, so I'll have to see how I can work this in. I may try to start a Science club this year, and/or use our virtual platform to involve students more.
    • Amy
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      amyeroche1
      The biggest challenge I face every year when leading inquiry based activities in school is the lack of time.  In public schools, there is so much pressure to "cover material" and get through so many science units (not to mention all the other subjects).  I never feel like I do it justice.  I don't really have a solution for this problem, but I just continue to struggle with it each year.
    • Veronica
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      vhorton
      One of the challenges I have faced in leading and assessing inquiry based activities has been interference by outside forces and a school community that does not see the value of inquiry based investigations to the extent that it hinders the work the students try to do. Lack of support of the school administration and what I call just a disrespect for student efforts has been a theme of challenge in just about every effort I have made to do projects beyond the classroom related to natural science. Examples include planting new tree seedlings for several years in areas around the school and in the school garden that are dug up by the custodian and knocked down by neighborhood residences.  Bird seed experiments set on an outside ledge under my classroom window with  signs that clearly identified them as  student experiments that were removed by the custodian. Rain water collection bottles destroyed and knocked down by other students. No acknowledgement or interest when my class was selected to receive a grant to participate in a STEM program where we did a bird study. I discussed these challenges with custodial and administration with no success and finally just limited my activities to ones that could be done in the classroom. Because of this I felt that my students who live in an urban environment and had very little opportunity to engage with nature were being stifled by the very school that is supposed to support their learning. My suggestion is if you have no support with doing inquiry based work with students don't give up. Find a way to bring it into the classroom despite ignorance in your school community. Ultimately it is for the greater good of the students.
      • Amy
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        amyeroche1
        So sad to hear this.  I too have had many of these experiences.  It's so heartbreaking for the kids.  Yes, don't give up!
      • Jessica
        Participant
        Chirps: 27
        jmckenna
        I'm so sorry to hear about the challenges you have faced. A few years ago I took a class from the GREENTREE foundation on Long Island and one of their recommendations was setting up a committee and involving all stakeholders before beginning these projects that could very easy be disrupted. In our school we created a committee with teachers, our building principal and head custodian. We have even had the head of buildings and grounds in on our meetings so everyone is aware of our vision and goals. This has proven to be successful over the past few years with few hiccups.
      • Sara
        Participant
        Chirps: 30
        SaraPi

        @Jessica That's a great suggestion Jessica! No doubt the lack of support from the school community would be so disheartening. Involving admin and staff from the start would hopefully make them cheerleaders for the students and projects!   Veronica - don't give up, teachers like Y O U make the difference in kids wanting to go to school, to develop a passion for learning!

      • Kathleen
        Participant
        Chirps: 41
        Acorn Woodpecker
        This is extremely disappointing.  I hope that you continue and become discourage.  The students deserve your persistence.
      • Pam
        Participant
        Chirps: 33
        Pam Hosimer
        Veronica never give up or give in! Keep doing what you are doing. The students will benefit from the fact that you care enough to keep going, even with obvious lack of support, and from your genuine enthusiasm for them and your project. Students are sponges and will learn from your positive lesson and carry that experience through their lifetime.
    • Dianne
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      dhaley1
      When teaching a lesson on Melting and Freezing points, I led an experiment on the fastest way to get ice to melt without using more water.  I did not call it an inquiry-based activity, but my classes questioned, predicted and then followed through with the activity.  One cup was ice alone, another cup had ice and table salt, and a third cup changed in each class as per predictions and class votes. They measured the amount of liquid water appeared in each cup every two minutes for twenty minutes.   Even after much thought and discussion of the procedures, reviewing the use and reading of a ruler, and even pre-labeling cup 1, cup 2 and cup 3, I still faced challenges.  Some of the challenges I faced were supporting all of the needs of my students.  On that particular day, my aide in three classes was out sick without a substitute.  In focusing on my attention on making sure all students received their supplies to get started, I was not able to support all of the needs within each class.  Some students just dumped everything in one cup, some students were unable to read a ruler, etc.  The students still had a fun time and enjoyed themselves.  Then I brought the students who were unable to complete the lab in at another time for a make-up lab.
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      LauraYoung
      I have not led any major inquiry based activities, though I have led some smaller ones, like looking at why snow is white, and the best amount of water for a seedling. I think one challenge for me is language -- "I wonder" boards are very open-ended, and I am teaching students who are new to school and to English. I often find myself relying on predictions rather than more open-ended wondering. Another challenge is modelling what strong inquiry looks like. I also think that engagement will be a challenge -- I need to find high-engagement, meaningful opportunities for students to base their wonderings on.
    • Amy
      Participant
      Chirps: 24
      alrichardson
      I have not led any inquiry-based activities in my classroom.  Since I have not led or assessed these types of activities I will reflect on some challenges that I think I would face.  In many of the articles that I have read and from prior experience with how children think, I believe students will learn best when they are the ones creating the questions, designing the experiments and investigations, and collecting the data.  I teach six and seven year old students in my first grade class.  Since inquiry-based activities would be new them, I anticipate some confidence issues with students and some who just want me to tell them how to do everything.  It will be challenging for me to step back.  While I will still be modeling my expectations, giving positive encouragement and feedback, and supporting them through the process, I will need to hold off to let this be their investigation and discovery.  This inquiry process is developed over time and with much practice.  I will need to remind myself that time, patience, and flexibility are essential in order for this process to be successful.  Teaching my students how to do peer and self assessments would be a great component to add to this process.  I also feel that since I've typically done only summative assessments with first graders in science that moving to dynamic assessment would be very beneficial for them.  This would give them the opportunity to make adjustments to their project based on feedback from myself and their classmates.  While all these suggestions are great, my biggest challenge in all of this will be the time that it will take to teach, model, coach, and provide practice opportunities to develop this new way of thinking.
      • Dianne
        Participant
        Chirps: 31
        dhaley1
        Amy, Thanks for sharing!  I teach 6th graders and some of them lack in confidence just as your 1st graders.  I think is truly a challenge as teachers.  The other point I thought of the child who tend to be a perfectionist.  They could potentially have problems if their results disprove their hypothesis.  So much to think about!  Thanks again.
    • Johanna
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      jdelwood
      I have found greatest success in inquiry-based instruction when I give students the opportunity to ask their own questions.  Students begin to have ownership of the project and become the “experts” on their topic when they are researching and developing an experiment on a topic that interests them.  It ceases to be so much an assignment as something that they enjoy doing.  These are the students who show up at the end of the day to have more time in the lab to work on their project or more time with the computers for research.  If I dominate the areas of inquiry, students tend to shut down and approach the project as something that must be completed for the sake of the grade. I have rubrics to be most helpful when assessing student projects.  Rubrics communicate to all students up front the expectations for the projects.  I agreed with the instructor in the reading in that rubrics tend to need adjusting over time.  Just when I think I have worked out all the issues, something else arises during the grading of projects that I did not address in the rubric.  I adjust rubrics as needed to keep them current for the projects.
      • Amy
        Participant
        Chirps: 24
        alrichardson
        Johanna, You made some great points in your discussion reflection.  I agree with you that student interest and ownership with inquiry based learning is what drives them to be more engaged with the whole process.  As a teacher it is such an awesome feeling to see the change in a student's perspective when it comes to school work.   They transition from looking at science as just a normal activity to something that is fun and exciting.  That's when we see students want to come early or stay after school to learn more because they have developed a passion and love for science. I feel that rubrics are also very helpful in giving students clear guidelines as to our expectations.  I also agree that rubrics do need to be adjusted.  Questions, situations, and issues can come up while grading projects that would prompt us to make those necessary changes to the rubric for the following year.
    • Elisabeth
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      evhartman
      Leading an inquiry-based activity is something we haven't done at this point, formally. In presenting community programs, I think one of the main challenges would be introducing the inquiry style itself, as it can take time for children (or adults) to adapt to this style of learning. Since we aren't yet doing any citizen science projects, attendees at our programs come expecting to be given facts and information, not necessarily to be active learners/participants. A way we could tackle this would be to present that the program will be interactive to begin with, as they will know the content (what the program is about) ahead of time and they could even begin to think of questions they may have or answers to questions they think we may have for them, this could be beneficial as those who attend our programs generally are doing so because they already have some sort of interest already in the topic.
    • Taylor
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      TSimon95
      I have not yet lead an inquiry-based activity in the classroom, but one of the challenges I would imagine educators face is determining what level of 'interference' or 'prompting' by the educator is required. I think I would struggle to do a more "open-ended" inquiry activity with the students, as it is the tendency of an educator to be helpful and guide them, but I also know it is important to allow students to figure out things in their own way and make mistakes too. I would also think another challenge that would come with inquiry-based activities is determining the 'right' way to assess the learning, which would mean that the learning objectives need to be really clear or else it may be challenging to assess what the students are learning.
      • Elisabeth
        Participant
        Chirps: 23
        evhartman
        This is a great point, struggling with open ended questions & allowing children to figure things out on their own. I could see struggling with that as well, I think we are so used to wanting to empower kids with knowledge, and the correct knowledge at that, and so its easy to fall into the usual style of teaching or presenting information. I'm really going to work on my open-ended question techniques!
      • Nini
        Participant
        Chirps: 32
        Ninich

        @Elisabeth I agree with both Elisabeth and Taylor regarding  how a teacher supports/guides without letting the student fall or do something wrong.  I also feel on the periphery of education in my role as a support staff person.

    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      NRGregory
      Due to time constraints with my groups of students, I have led data gathering, as in a citizen science project - Great Backyard Bird Count- but have not had an opportunity to lead a full blown inquiry. I believe one of the challenges for classroom teachers would be the amount of time dedicated to integrating subject matter from several disciplines to meet state learning standards. Experienced teachers may see those connections more readily but still find it quite a bit of prep. I like the idea of collaboration with other teachers in your school to review some of the skills students must have to do an effective inquiry.
      • Laura
        Participant
        Chirps: 25
        Curious621
        I agree with the time restraints, especially with state testing looming.  Possibly this year testing will be waived and I will have more time and flexibility with my lesson planning!
    • Liz
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      lsiepker
      In the fall semester, I started a new Earth & Space Science course that focused on project-based learning (PBL). In my mind, PBL is very much inquiry based. What I've learned is similar to what Mr. Kahler experienced in his citizen-science project. One of the biggest challenges, after defining the phenomena and driving question, is working with students to develop their own research questions. I had to spend 2 entire class periods and then continue to touch on it throughout the project about how to ask good questions that focus on the What? How? and the Why?. After that, I had a media specialist come in the class and talk about how to conduct research, avoid plagiarism, and cite sources. Again, these were topics that continuously needed to be re-visited throughout the project.  You can't talk about these once and then assume that students understand their importance and know how to handle them appropriately.
    • Holly
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      hrdevault
      I have not yet led an inquiry-based activity. I would think a challenge would be to help those kids that are struggling to keep up with the class and not give up.
      • Liz
        Participant
        Chirps: 15
        lsiepker
        Holly, You bring up a good point about struggling students and how to keep them engaged. What I've found to be helpful is that students each have a speciality and are really good at. That becomes their focus and you help them to discover it. Ultimately with PBL and citizen science projects, it allows student voice and choice which is a powerful mechanism for instilling student engagement and success.
      • Tamara
        Participant
        Chirps: 4
        tamicrow
        This is always my focus as well. I think getting to know students well enough to be able to scaffold just enough that they can be successful, but not overdoing it. Knowing accommodations like speech to text software, graphing software, calculator use and visual math websites is so good. Develop a great relationship with special education staff as well as your english teachers. What is on one kids IEP can help lots of students in your class.
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