District Administration December2017 - 88

ProfessionalOpinion
A recipe for scientific literacy
Inquiry-based instruction engages students
in the skills they need to be productive global citizens

V

erona Public Schools is dedicated to cultivating learning
environments that nurture the
natural curiosity of children. As Albert
Einstein said, "Education is not the
learning of facts, but the training of the
mind to think."
A year after we launched our pilot
program in inquiry-based science, feedback from surveys shows a higher level
of student engagement. The new science
program, developed with support from
the Smithsonian Institute and National
Academies of Science, is being implemented this year in our elementary and
middle schools with the goal of increasing student engagement and improving
knowledge of scientific processes.
The Next Generation Science Standards define scientific inquiry as "the
formulation of a question that can be
answered through investigation, while
engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved
through design."
Research has shown that an inquirybased teaching approach fosters deeper
critical thinking. Our new science program provides a commitment to active,
hands-on learning in grades 1 through 8.
It is focused on research-based standards
that highlight what students should be
able to do to at each grade level.
Implementing inquiry-based science
is one approach to developing critical
thinking and personalizing instruction
for students by addressing the preconceptions that they bring with them to
the classroom.

DAmag.me/recipe

88 December 2017

We must prepare
students to compete in
the future by focusing
on critical thinking
and problem-solving
for careers that
do not yet exist.
Scientific literacy
As educators, we have a responsibility
to help students develop a deep understanding of science concepts so they
grow up into responsible global citizens.
Our schools must focus on critical
thinking and problem-solving so our
students can compete for careers that do
not yet exist.
Curriculum developed with fewer
topics in mind-which lets teachers
devote time and energy to cultivating a
greater depth of understanding-supports meaningful discussions centered
around big ideas. The National Research Council addressed this in its
seminal reference guide, "Designing
Mathematics or Science Curriculum
Programs," which established a clear set
of goals and guidelines for achieving
literacy in mathematics and science: "If
the curriculum has been designed with
rich and engaging tasks, appropriate
instructional decisions can be made to
assist all students in attaining significant
cognitive growth."
Memorization vs. inquiry
Howard Gardner's theory of multiple
intelligences outlines how people learn

By Rui Dionisio
through different modalities, such as
auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Gardner, a developmental psychologist and
professor of cognition and education at
the Harvard Graduate School of Education, believes that students should think
independently and develop their own
understanding of concepts-rather than
simply accepting the ideas of others
through rote memorization.
Inquiry-based instruction represents
an evolution away from traditional,
lecture-based methods of teaching science. Many students memorize facts
without grasping the idea. They would
better understand a concept if they
were awarded opportunities to conduct
hands-on experiments and to engage
firsthand with scientific phenomena.
That is exactly what our new science
program seeks to accomplish.
The research from the National
Research Council and AAAS Project
2061 (a long-term research initiative focused on improving science education)
is compelling: Conveying scientific
processes in a coherent manner across
all grade levels provides teaching and
learning opportunities in a continuous,
cumulative manner with the greatest
potential for maximizing learning.
Our district is committed to the success of all students by advocating, nurturing and sustaining a school culture
and instructional program conducive to
student learning and staff professional
growth. We look forward to our progress from the collective efforts of our
faculty and support of the Verona community for years to come as we enhance
science as we know it. DA
Rui Dionisio is superintendent of the Verona
Public Schools in New Jersey.
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration December2017

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