Thursday, August 24, 2017

Learning the Nature of Inquiry-based Teaching through Lesson Study

by Ivy Mejia
ipmejia@up.edu.ph

A number of reform-based initiatives in science education are focusing on inquiry as an approach to science teaching. A case in point is the K to 12 Science Curriculum of the Department of Education (DepEd, 2016). The general standard for this curriculum is for students to acquire an “understanding of basic science concepts and application of science inquiry-skills” (DepEd, 2016, p. 4). However, there are varied conceptions of inquiry both in preservice and in-service education (Akerson, Abd-El-Khalick, & Lederman, 2000). To regulate accurate understanding of inquiry in science instruction, teachers needed support in this area. To reconcile the need for the development of inquiry and support, the University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED) initiated a collaboration with five science teachers at a typical public school in the National Capital Region. It was a three-year project whose main goal was to enhance the capacity of science teachers to strengthen the inquiry skills of the students. This article will not describe the entire project but only the results of the first year of implementation of a professional development model, which is referred to as lesson study. 

The study employed a case study design where the case is a group of five teachers and two UP NISMED staff. The data collected were drawn from the several stages of lesson study: planning, implementation, and post-lesson discussion. The research lesson is on “evidence of chemical change.” Two classes of first-year students were selected to gather data on teaching and learning with a focus on inquiry skills. The transcript of the group discussions and lesson implementations were subjected to content analysis. These were coded and categorized to draw patterns on science inquiry skills gained both by the teachers and students. 

Figure 1. Students synthesizing their observations drawn from the activity on evidences of chemical change (Photo credit:  High School Earth Science Workgroup).
The entire process of lesson study brought realizations to teachers that unpolished process skills of students served as barriers to the development of inquiry skills. During the first lesson implementation, students had an alternative conception on initial and final observations. For example, they had to describe a piece of bread before and after it was burned. Their initial observation was that the bread looks brown while their final observation was that the bread became toasted. Another instance was ignoring the changes on the surface of a sliced eggplant once it was exposed to air. For them, they have been used to this appearance and did not consider it as a change. The group had to revise the lesson by revisiting observation as basic process skill. Students were taught what is meant by initial and final observations. On the second implementation, students were able to describe the physical and chemical changes. They provided explanations based on evidence brought by employing careful observations on changes as drawn from the activity. 

On the first year of lesson study, the members concluded that enhancement of inquiry skills of students was dependent on prior process skills of students. The group focused on the inclusion of inquiry but it overlooked the prior readiness of students to engage in inquiry. The planning, implementation, and lesson study discussion, as part of lesson study cycle, served as a way for the group to understand the factors affecting the acquisition of inquiry skills both to teachers and students. Although students were observed to have been discussing their explanations based on evidence, this does not guarantee that they have understood this feature of inquiry. The students should not only undergo the process of inquiry but also demonstrate an understanding of the process of inquiry. This is achieved when teachers are both competent in knowledge and skills about inquiry. 

The full version of this article is published in UP NISMED’s Lesson Study Book 2: Learning more together, growing in practice together.
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