Klentschy & Thompson – Scaffolding Science Inquiry

I’m sitting in today on a session at one of our elementary schools where the group of teachers is looking deeply at inquiry and how it works at school.  We’ve just been given a copy of Michael Klentschy and Laurie Thompson’s book, Scaffolding Science Inquiry Through Lesson Design and have been asked to take a look at Chapter One and write about our reading.

I have long been interested in Klentschy and others’ work with science notebooks, tools for thinking, questioning, gathering data and making meaning from the data gathered.  I think my blog serves a bit like my science notebook, and I think that blogs could be fine science notebooks for students and teachers to think, question, record observations and use to make meaning from those things, too.  But the first chapter of their book discusses a three-phase approach to lesson planning that’s not a bad model to keep in mind:

Phase 1 – Intended Curriculum – The big ideas that are expected to be taught. (Perhaps standards, benchmarks, big questions)

Phase 2 – Implemented Curriculum – The plan for getting to those big ideas.  In their model, this begins with a focus question, a question that “leads to construction of knowledge about lesson content goals” (page 4).  PRedictions, data collection and recording in a notebook, and making meaning of that data follow.

Phase 3 – Achieved Curriculum – A measure of whether or not what was intended and implemented actually resulted in student learning of those elements and ideas.  The science notebook, as a place to record most of the thinking and questioning and collection that occurred along the way, becomes a big piece of the assessment – and a place to discover where, if it happened, learning went off track.

I think this is a pretty handy way of thinking about lesson design.  It meshes nicely with what I’m learning about Understanding by Design, as well.  Better than either model, though, is the systematic use of the notebook as a place to record and think and write and learn and share.  That’s how learning happens.  We write.  We ask.  We seek.  We discover.   We revise.  We share.  Repeat.

I carry a notebook and also use this space to do those things.  Any approach to learning that helps students to use actual learning tools for realistic reasons is a good step.  It’s much bigger than science, too.  I’m pleased that this school is seeking to use processes and tools across classrooms to model how learning happens.  I’m also pleased to be in the midst of this conversation occurring as teachers write and share with each other, too. Our students need to see teachers engaged in learning using methods similar to the ones they ask their students to use.

Not a bad way to spend the week before school starts back.

3 thoughts on “Klentschy & Thompson – Scaffolding Science Inquiry

  1. Great post on some real teaching and learning practice. So many points have struck a chord with me that I don’t know where to begin. As a kindergarten teacher, I am comfortable with narrowing down the expected learning to a few key points. From there come the questions that trigger the exploration and discovery, the collaboration and recording. The notebook you speak of will necessarily look different for younger students but the purpose can be the same – to record what the student sees and thinks about the objects studied. Critical elements of early childhood education include speaking and listening skills that are part of the literacy program. For this reason, I like to have the students speak about their observations. Very few kindergarten students will be able to write all that they see and think but encouraging their use of words to demonstrate and explain their thinking requires the same organizational skills they will need for writing later on. Here is an example of scientific study and exploration in our kindergarten earlier this year. I will be expanding my science program this year because the process has been simplified. Your teachers will be happy with this framework and will be able to collaborate meaningfully.

  2. This is timely for me–just spent a few weeks looking over different ways to approach lesson/unit/curricular frameworks, and this is simple…graceful..nice! Thanks for sharing. Going to pick up that book now.

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