mascil aims to promote a widespread use of inquiry-based science teaching (IBST) in primary and secondary schools. The major innovation of mascil is to connect IBST in school with the World of Work making science more meaningful for young European students and motivating their interest in careers in science and technology. To achieve these aims mascil collected and published examples of classroom materials for inquiry in rich vocational contexts in close collaboration with all mascil partners.
More than tasks
Tasks that are designed for Inquiry Based Learning and the World of Work will not automatically foster students’ inquiry and create a sense of purpose for them. Inquiry-based learning is not just about using new tasks. Tasks offer students the opportunity to make decisions and to question situations, but the tasks do not -in themselves- guarantee inquiry-based learning. The role of the teacher is crucial here. Teachers need to scaffold the inquiry of students by being proactive: they support and encourage students who are struggling, and extend the skills of the ones that are succeeding through the use of carefully chosen strategic questions. They value students’ contributions – including mistakes – and scaffold learning using students' reasoning and experiences (Crawford, 2000). The implementation of this support by teachers in daily practice asks for carefully planned lessons and valuing inquiry-related learning goals.
Quality criteria for IBL
We distinguish four criteria for tasks that support inquiry-based learning.
- Processes of inquiry are supported by tasks that are cast in – for students – meaningful situations. This meaningfulness allows them to question the situation and to think of ways to tackle problems without using standard solution procedures or following a structured task sequence.
- Learning is driven by open questions that create opportunities for multiple-solution strategies. The openness of the task allows students to (initially) plan and start the process of inquiry by themselves.
- The multiple solution strategies allow teachers to reflect on processes like the planning of inquiry, experimenting systematically and the evaluation of results. A task can be specifically oriented on one of the processes of inquiry (e.g. what questions or problems are evoked by this situation, or what experimenting and organizing of data is needed for answering the main question).
- Finally, the tasks need to invite students to collaborate and communicate, for instance by providing information of how to distribute work, or by including the need for a presentation of results.
Quality criteria for WoW
Four dimensions can be considered for connecting tasks to the World of Work: Context, Role, Activity and Product. Not every task will have a similar emphasis on each of these four dimensions, but for a strong connection with the World of Work these dimensions all need to be taken into account.
- First of all, the context in which the task is set relates to the World of Work. This relation can be very strong if an (authentic) practice from the WoW is used.
- The activities students do should have a clear purpose, involve authentic problems and reveal how mathematics and science are used in the World of Work. The activities can be more or less similar to activities actually carried out by workers in the workplace with more or less use of authentic tools or artefacts. Also, the ways of working are supposed to reflect characteristics of daily work, for example by creating an incentive for teamwork or division of labour.
- Within the task students are placed in a professional role fitting the context of the task. The actions students perform can be more or less similar to authentic workplace actions and to the ways of working in a workplace.
- This is all the more clear if the outcome of the task is a product meant for an appropriate audience.