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Why Observation and Recording Skills Are Key in Inquiry Science

November 18, 2016

By: Guest Blogger: Lee Davidson, Associate Dean for the School of Education for Accreditation and Assessment and Chair, Teaching, Learning, & Curriculum Department, Andrews University

Observation and recording skills are needed for all levels inquiry. Every type of inquiry must use observation if it’s going to be successful. In addition, what students have observed must be recorded accurately. Good scientists record their data. This is what the Student Science Journal is used for in the By Design Science series. Records that contain accurate data, recorded carefully, allow scientists and others to go back and check their work.

Another aspect of inquiry that is often overlooked, I believe, is teaching students to ask the right questions, for example:  What are the questions that need to be answered? Which of these questions can we test? What do we need to do to do this safely? After the students have learned and become familiar with inquiry procedures, they will be more able to move toward open inquiry, independently answering questions that they have.

As has been mentioned, children might be considered scientists because they like to ask questions and give answers—that is exactly what scientists try to do. I remember a time when my son was less than two years old. I had been doing work with some fine wire, and he came to his mother with a thread spool and said “make motor.” She didn’t think much about it until a little later—when she heard a popping sound and some crying. Our son had taken the fine wire and wrapped it several times around the thread spool, and then plugged the two wires into the electric outlet in the wall. Fortunately, he was not hurt. But my question was, how did he know that he could use these items to make a motor? But I suppose that his interest came naturally from being around a father who was always experimenting with various things, as this was encouraged by my parents, who very much let me be an inquiring young person.

I may talk more about some of the experiments my parents let me do in later blogs. But this example shows that when we are engaging in open inquiry or when we are allowing children to engage in open inquiry, we must always make sure that, as teachers, we are guiding, watching, and supervising, so that our students are doing things in a safe manner. We will be held responsible for our students’ safety.  But that is another topic for another blog.

Finally, whenever we are doing inquiry science, we must remember that it works best if the students want to know the answers to the questions we are asking. If they are engaging in inquiry just because it is the assignment, they are less likely to learn what you want them to learn.