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INQUIRY MODULES: A SINGLE-SEX SCIENCE METHODOLOGY

Nuno Miguel Gaspar da Silva Francisco

2013-07-01
 

INQUIRY MODULES: A SINGLE-SEX SCIENCE METHODOLOGY

Nuno Miguel Gaspar da Silva Francisco

nuno miguel gaspar da silva

INTRODUCTION

Although boys like science more and are more apt to deepen their scientific interests, girls tend to be more structured. In Portugal, the teaching of the sciences has been done essentially by women, and for this reason has gained in structure rather than emphasizing the a critical freedom of scientific thought more typical of boys. This fact normally results in lower marks for the boys in external tests.

The module presented here, the result of a very broad task within the European project based on IBSE (inquiry based science education), attempts to improve the processes of teaching and learning. In this module, the primary objective was the production of material able to have small goals with successive increases of complexity. It emphasizes interaction within the group/class, with joint activities, but also with individual exercises using new technologies. These objectives have been presented in two different publications: an article accompanied by a poster of an international conference of the PROFILES project in Berlin, and in the journal of the Portuguese Chemical Society (both annexed).

The questions raised during the work, although challenging, broaden curiosity in trying to obtain rapid and valid answers. There is also the possibility of repeating the tested activities through computer simulation, both in the classroom and in the home, as a form of self-assessment and review of content.

The questions raised during the work, although challenging, broaden curiosity in trying to obtain rapid and valid answers. There is also the possibility of repeating the tested activities through computer simulation, both in the classroom and in the home, as a form of self-assessment and review of content.


DEVELOPMENT
Public interest in the area of science has exploded in recent years (as seen by the results obtained in the ROSE (Relevance of Science Education) study, for example the impact of political decisions (in the areas of energy and food).

It has been observed in Anglo-Saxon countries that there is a decline of students and candidates in science courses, with a movement toward the social sciences and the arts. In the United Kingdom, the university courses most attended are, first of all Design, and second Psychology. The United States solved this problem through attracting good students from around the world.

We wish to create a society of knowledge, and the European Union has a program to create a larger flux of young people in the sciences. Ireland had no physics teachers, and converted teachers from biology to physics. Another problem is demographic, and for this reason there have been attempts to attract the children of immigrants. Another important factor had to do with the increase of financing for research programs in this area; particularly in regard to questions of gender. One example is the study “Women in Science”, from which one learns that in a horizontal segregation (analyzing all areas of science) in 2006 there existed in Portugal 44% of women with participation in science. From a vertical perspective (analyzing hierarchies) it is seen that there is a disappearance of women in the most important posts. It is interesting to note the differences in interest in science, with men having a greater interest than women (figure 1).

Education in the sciences is essential in modern societies in terms of the problems that they will have to face. However, the traditional perspectives of the construction of scientific knowledge and the vision regarding the processes of teaching and of learning, associated with other factors such as the external assessment of students frequently constitute barriers to pedagogical innovation [1]. The teaching of the sciences continues to lend particular relevance to the transmission of facts, principles, and laws. This kind of learning, frequently decontextualized, has not contributed greatly to the improvement of levels of science literacy of students, and frequently leads to students developing negative attitudes in regard to science. Thus, it is to be expected that indicators show that primary and secondary school students appear to increasingly dislike the sciences [2, 3]. In order to combat this trend, many teachers seek to implement teaching strategies that foster the critical thinking and self-reflection of their students. This may be done when the teacher no longer simply presents the formal concepts of science and tries to contextualize them in regard to current issues and positions to be taken on them. It was with this objective to increase the popularity and relevance of science education that various European researchers came together in the PARSEL project, of which the Universidade de Lisboa (Instituto de Educação) [4, 5], was a participant and which was developed between 2006 and 2009. This project was an important precursor to the PROFILES project, the development of which began in 2010, with the end date set for 2014. In the next section of the present article we present more information about this project and its objectives.

THE PROFILES: PROJECT AND THE INQUIRY METHOD


The acronym PROFILES stands for Professional Reflection-Oriented Focus on Inquiry Learning and Education through Science (http://www.profiles-project.eu/). It is a European project, with the participation of more than 20 countries, among which Portugal is represented by the School of Sciences of the Universidade do Porto. The project stemmed from the need to invest in the continual training of teachers, and is based on the principles of self-sufficiency and of teacher ownership. Moreover, as indicated by its acronym, PROFILES is concerned with fostering approaches that emphasize Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE).

The module to be present below begins with a motivating question, is followed by brainstorming of ideas/questions that can appear upon the introduction of the subject, such as prior concepts. We then move to the interactive part, with digital resources (support/complementary texts within the area of the subject presented in the simulation).

CONCLUSIONS

It is extremely important to know the context of whom one wishes to transmit – the age, gender, and the individual’s true interest, or the concept that one wishes to transmit. The latter item may be very correct scientifically, but if one has no public to listen, if the concept is not presented in a differential manner, it may not be effectively transmitted and/or not be meaningful either in the short or the long term. According to some articles on single-sex education, in physics and chemistry, boys seek more details, and girls are more organized.

The above facts led me to accept the challenge of participating in a research project that sought, through an inquiry or guided research methodology, create an appealing scenario for boys, adapting a module already tested in Israel. In the near future I will attempt to develop a model for girls and to even test a double model with two scenarios in which students will have the freedom to choose the module they wish, analyzing qualitatively and quantitatively the choices and the answers given.

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