I don’t know if it is of any help, Elizabeth, but I worked with one of our Chemistry teachers at school last September when her Year 9 classes were looking at the development of the structure of the atom. It is not quite the same, as she had different pupils investigating different scientists and their models of atomic structure, but the way she had planned her inquiry was really unusual – for science anyway – and was partly an experiment for adapting our Year 9 teaching to meet MYP requirements. The central question to be addressed in this inquiry involved the nature of matter: Is there an underlying structure that connects all matter? and the pupils were to play the part of the different scientists/their assistants in presenting their contributions to the understanding of matter and atomic structure at a historical gathering organised by the Greek philosopher and scientist Thales.
This, obviously, was planned for more than one lesson of an hour, but the progression throughout the inquiry and the way in which the pupils were given the responsibility of providing their classmates with the material for building their own knowledge of the whole topic (through a written abstract and their presentation at the gathering) in order to assess the contribution of the different scientists to our understanding of atomic structure was a great way for them to develop many skills with real purpose – few self-respecting thirteen year olds are happy to be outdone by their peers.
From a personal perspective, my involvement was predominantly with the Investigate and Construct stages – encouraging reflective note-taking from pre-selected resources using an Investigative Journal, and bringing together the information gained using a ‘Main points from my research’ type graphic organiser to decide what needed to be included in the presentation. Unfortunately, I was unable to witness the gathering, but I was told that Thales was very impressed with the learning experience for the higher-ability class, while the lower-ability students had struggled more in the presentation of their findings so had needed more assistance with constructing their overall understanding.
It is so rewarding to have the opportunity to work with teachers like this (see also references to the Year 8 Energy Resources topic/debate in the forum) and to see that there is a real desire for inquiry-based teaching and learning in school – just not everywhere!