forces acting on objects in various states of motion. The students’ prior understandings were challenged by questions about objects and forces in different contexts; this caused them to look for evidence to build improved explanations. Second, he helped his students develop abilities to do scientific inquiry, attending, in particular, to determining what constituted evidence of forces acting on objects in various conditions, and building evidence-based explanations that would apply across different contexts. Finally, Mr. Hull shared aspects of the nature of scientific inquiry with the students and drew on their ideas to show how scientists think and work.
Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry. This lesson includes a number of the essential features of classroom inquiry described in Chapter 2. Scientific questions focused students’ thinking about the forces acting on objects in various states of motion. The students gathered observable evidence to develop explanations and gain a deeper understanding of the concept of force. They also questioned proposed explanations, focusing on the search for observable evidence. Mr. Hull guided the building of explanations from the evidence gathered. At the conclusion of the lesson, he helped the students make connections from their experiences to current scientific thinking about forces and motion.
Instructional Model. The example of Mr. Hull and his students illustrates one way of organizing and sequencing learning and teaching activities consistent with inquiry. Through questioning, Mr. Hull actively engaged his students in thinking about the existence of an upward force on an object at rest on a table. He used student-generated drawings to find out more about their current understanding of whether objects, such as a table or hand, can exert an upward force on an object at rest. Mr. Hull drew on the prior knowledge of the students to pose questions that motivated them to explore whether other types of objects, such as springs, can exert an upward force. The students developed explanations about how a stationary object could exert an upward force. Mr. Hull explained how scientists think about forces and helped the students elaborate their explanations across different contexts. The students critiqued their ideas on the basis of evidence. Through class discussion, Mr. Hull was able to evaluate student thinking and use this information to help structure the flow of the lesson.
In this vignette the teacher clearly guided the inquiry. Yet, stimulated by an initial question from the teacher, students asked their own questions, voiced their concerns, and shared their ideas. They also critiqued ideas focusing on the search for evidence.