03 SES 08 B, Inquiry Learning and Scientific Reasoning
This paper examines the phenomenon of children’s inquiry and poses the key research question about how the process of inquiry might be understood in a new way that can be utilized, in the form of a new model of pedagogical inquiry, by both teachers and learners. It also seeks to identify the major analytical dimensions of inquiry. These questions are particularly pertinent and timely as inquiry based learning, as a theme of educational research and practice at all levels of education, has attracted considerable interest in recent years (Audet 2005; Erickson 2008; Lindfors 1999; Parker 2007). This is particularly the case in a number of countries, such as the UK, the US, Ireland and other European countries, in which there is a lively debate in school education about pre-determined outcomes and teaching standards and standardised testing that are often contrasted with inquiry and discovery approaches to learning. Inquiry based learning suggests a model curriculum development and practice that moves educational debate beyond teacher or student based approaches towards a model of teaching and learning in which the endeavour is shared. Within this debate, and as a contribution to it, studies such as the one presented here hold a promise of promoting a deeper understanding of the manner in which young learners and their teachers come to knowledge.
Specifically, the paper reports on a project in which the attempt was made to employ semiotics [the theory of signs], as a way to understand and critique children’s inquiry. In doing this, the paper draws particularly on C. S. Peirce’s semiotic theory. For Peirce, a sign [or representamen] is something that stands for something else in some respect, but Peirce did not limit his focus to linguistic signs; instead, he included signs that signify an object by virtue of resemblance [icons] or physical connection [indices], as well as those signs based on a cultural convention which has become a rule or habit [symbols].The defining characteristic of Peirce’s semiotics is his insight that a sign stands in relation not only to its object in the external world but also stands in relation to the interpretant [the sense made of the sign by the learner]. It is this element that is particularly relevant in understanding the nature of children’s inquiry for this study.
Alberta Learning. 2004. Focus on Inquiry: a teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry-based learning. Edmonton, Canada: Learning Resources Center. Audet, R. 2005. “Inquiry: A continuum of ideas, issues and practices.” In Integrating inquiry across the curriculum, edited by R. Audet and L. K. Jordan, 5-15. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Costa A. L., and B. Kallick, eds. 2009. Habits of mind across the curriculum. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Erickson, L. 2008. Stirring the Head, Heart and Soul – Redefining Curriculum, Instruction, and Concept-Based Learning. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Evenson, D. H. and C. Hmelo, C. E. 2000. Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Houser, N. 1992. “Introduction.” In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, edited by, H. Houser and C. Kloesel, xix-xli, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. International Baccalaureate Organization. 2007. Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education. Cardiff: Author. Knodt, J. 2010. “Teaching for creativity: Building innovation through open-inquiry learning.” School Library Monthly XXVI (9): 41-44. Lindfors, J. W. 1999. Children’s inquiry. Using language to make sense of the world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. McNeill, D. 2000. Language and gesture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker, D. 2007. Planning for inquiry. It’s not an oxymoron! Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English. Pataray-Ching, J. and M. Roberson. 2002. “Misconceptions about a curriculum-as-inquiry framework.” Language Arts 79 (6): 498-505. Peirce, C. S. 1992a. “Evolutionary Love.” In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings edited by, H. Houser and C. Kloesel, volume 1, 352-371. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, (Original work published 1893). Peirce, C. S. 1992b. “Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man.” In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings edited by, H. Houser and C. Kloesel, volume 1, 11-27. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, (Original work published 1893). Short, K. G. and C. Burke. 2001. “Curriculum as inquiry”. In Critiquing whole language and classroom inquiry, edited by S. Boran and B. Comber, 18-41. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English. Wolk, S. 2008. “School as inquiry.” The Phi Delta Kappan 90 (2): 115-122. Worth, K. 1999. Exploratorium: Institute for inquiry www.exploratorium.edu last accessed 02/07/2012. Yin, R. 2009. Case study research. Design and methods. 4th ed. London: Sage.
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