Case Study Teaching Methods In Physics Education Essay

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1.0 Introduction

In this 21st century, we should not just emphasize what students should learn, it also recognizes that how science is taught. So, teaching and learning strategies in the science curriculum emphasize thoughtful learning. Thought is the pursuit of purpose under conditions of uncertainty whereby this pursuit entails transforming preliminary first thoughts into refined second thoughts. Continuously, the first thoughts become second thoughts through the exercise of the disciplines of learning.

Thus, thoughtful learning is a process that helps students acquire knowledge and master skills that will help them develop their minds to the optimum level. It can occur through various learning approaches such as inquiry, constructivism, contextual learning, and mastery learning.

Learning activities should therefore be geared towards activating students' critical and creative thinking skills and not be confined to routine or rote learning. Students should be made aware of the thinking skills and thinking strategies that they use in their learning.

Besides, they should be challenged with higher order questions and problems as well as be required to solve problems utilizing their creativity and critical thinking.

Furthermore, they have to construct their own meaning regardless of how clearly teachers or books have delivery the messages. Mostly, they will be doing so by connecting new information and concepts to what he or she already believes.

In a nutshell, the teaching and learning process should enable students to acquire knowledge, master skills and develop scientific attitudes and noble values in an integrated manner.

Therefore, hereby, we will like to further our findings on one of the teaching and learning approaches in science, that is, inquiry-discovery approach.

2.0 Definition

As stated in Webster, inquiry is an act of inquiring; a seeking for information by asking questions; interrogation; a question or questioning.

One of the best resources on the meaning of inquiry is the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (NRC, 1996) developed and published by the National Academy of Sciences-an organization of the nation's most outstanding and recognized scientists. The NSES defines inquiry as follows:

"Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other source of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating results. Inquiry requires identifications of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations. (NSES, page 23)"

Generally, inquiry means to find information, to question and to investigate a phenomenon that occurs in the environment. Learners can also engage by scientifically oriented questions and give priority to evidence in responding to questions.

However, discovery learning is a method of inquiry-based instruction and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner.

Nevertheless, discovery is the main characteristic of inquiry by bringing the meaning of Finding out or ascertaining something previously unknown or unrecognized.

Therefore, learning through discovery occurs when the main concepts and principles of science are investigated and discovered by students themselves.

Last but not least, through activities such as experiments, students investigate a phenomenon and draw conclusions by themselves. Teachers then lead students to understand the science concepts through the results of the inquiry.

Thinking skills and scientific skills are thus developed further during the inquiry process. Sometimes, it may be more appropriate for teachers to present concepts and principles directly to students.

In summary, inquiry-discovery is one of the teaching and learning that approaches in science that will beneficial students through their investigation and observation using five senses so that indirectly build up their learning skills (creative thinking), literacy skills (information literacy) and life skills (flexibility).

3.0 Characteristics

By distinguishing the features of inquiry-oriented science instruction, it has been qualified in a variety of ways over the years and promoted from different types of perspectives such as the active nature of student involvement, associating inquiry with "hands-on" learning and experiential or activity-based instruction.

Besides, they link between inquiry and discovery approach or with development of process skills associated with "the scientific method." Though these various concepts are interrelated, inquiry-oriented instruction is not synonymous with any of them.

From a science view, inquiry-oriented instruction engages students in the investigative nature of science. As Novak suggested some time ago (1964), "Inquiry is the [set] of behaviors involved in the struggle of human beings for reasonable explanations of phenomena about which they are curious." So, inquiry involves activity and skills, but the focus is on the active search for knowledge or understanding to satisfy a curiosity.

Teachers differ significantly in how they attempt to engage students in the active search for knowledge; some advocate structured methods of guided inquiry (Igelsrud & Leonard, 1988) while others advocate providing students with few instructions (Tinnesand & Chan, 1987). Others may promote the use of heuristic devices to aid skill development (Germann, 1991). A focus on inquiry always involves, though, collection and interpretation of information in response to wondering and exploring.

However, from a pedagogical perspective, inquiry-oriented teaching is often contrasted with more traditional expository methods and reflects the constructivist model of learning, often referred to as active learning, so strongly held among science educators today. According to constructivist models, learning is the result of ongoing changes in our mental frameworks as we attempt to make meaning out of our experiences (Osborne & Freyberg, 1985).

In classrooms, students are encouraged to make meaning, they are generally involved in "developing and restructuring knowledge schemes through experiences with phenomena, through exploratory talk and teacher intervention" (Driver, 1989). Indeed, research findings indicate that, "students are likely to begin to understand the natural world if they work directly with natural phenomena, using their senses to observe and using instruments to extend the power of their senses" (National Science Board, 1991, p. 27).

In its essence, then, inquiry-oriented teaching engages students in investigations to satisfy curiosities, with curiosities being satisfied when individuals have constructed mental frameworks that adequately explain their experiences. One implication is that inquiry-oriented teaching begins or at least involves stimulating curiosity or provoking wonder. There is no authentic investigation or meaningful learning if there is no inquiring mind seeking an answer, solution, explanation, or decision.

Though some have raised concerns about extravagant claims made for science instruction based on activities and laboratory work (Hodson, 1990), studies of inquiry-oriented teaching (Anderson et al., 1982) and inquiry-based programs of the 1960s (Mechling & Oliver, 1983; Shymansky et al., 1990) have been generally supportive of inquiry approaches. Inquiry-based programs at the middle-school grades have been found to generally enhance student performance, particularly as it relates to laboratory skills and skills of graphing and interpreting data (Mattheis & Nakayama, 1988).

Confirmation has also been reported that shows inquiry-related teaching effective in fostering scientific literacy and understanding of science processes (Lindberg, 1990), vocabulary knowledge and conceptual understanding (Lloyd & Contreras, 1985, 1987), critical thinking (Narode et al., 1987), positive attitudes toward science (Kyle et al., 1985; Rakow, 1986), higher achievement on tests of procedural knowledge (Glasson, 1989), and construction of logico-mathematical knowledge (Staver, 1986).

It seems particularly important that inquiry-oriented teaching may be especially valuable for many underserved and underrepresented populations. In one study, language-minority students were found to acquire scientific ways of thinking, talking, and writing through inquiry-oriented teaching (Rosebery et al., 1990). Inquiry-oriented science teaching was shown to promote development of classification skills and oral communication skills among bilingual third graders (Rodriguez & Bethel, 1983). Active explorations in science have been advocated for teaching deaf students (Chira, 1990). Finally, experiential instructional approaches using ordinary life experiences are considered to be more compatible with native American viewpoints than are text-based approaches (Taylor, 1988).

Interactions among investigative approaches to science teaching and teaching styles (Lock, 1990), and the effects of directed inquiry on student performance may vary by level of cognitive development (Germann, 1989). There seems also a possible conflict of goals when attempting to balance the needs of underachieving gifted students to develop more positive self-concepts with the desire to develop skills of inquiry and problem solving (Wolfe, 1990).

Furthermore, it must also be emphasized that an emphasis on inquiry-oriented teaching does not necessarily preclude the use of textbooks or other instructional materials. The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study materials are examples of those that include an inquiry orientation (Hall & McCurdy, 1990; Sarther, 1991). Other materials accommodating an inquiry approach to teaching have been identified by Haury (1992). Several elementary school textbooks have been compared (Staver & Bay, 1987) and a content analysis scheme for identifying inquiry-friendly textbooks has been described (Tamir, 1985). Duschl (1986) has described how textbooks can be used to support inquiry-oriented science teaching. As mentioned by Hooker (1879, p. ii) many years ago, "No text-book is rightly constructed that does not excite [the] spirit of inquiry."

As instructional technology advances, there will become more options for using a variety of materials to enrich inquiry-oriented teaching. Use of interactive media in inquiry-based learning is being examined (Litchfield & Mattson, 1989), and new materials are being produced and tested (Dawson, 1991). Use of computerized data-bases to facilitate development of inquiry skills has also been studied (Maor, 1991).

4.0 Application

After realize the definition and characteristics of inquiry-discovery approaches to teaching and learning in science, now, we will like to share on how we should apply in our lesson.

First, teaching should be consistent with the nature of scientific inquiry. This is because Science is defined as much by what they do and how they do it as they are depends on the results they achieve. To understand them as ways of thinking and doing, as well as bodies of knowledge, requires that students have some experience with the kinds of thought and action that are typical of those fields.

For example, teachers can start with questions about nature. If teachers are going to teach the chapter on sound wave, it can usually begin with questions and phenomena that are interesting and familiar to students, however, not with abstractions or phenomena outside their range of perception, understanding, or knowledge.

During the learning process, students need to get familiar with the things around them-including devices, organisms, materials, shapes, and numbers-and to observe them, collect them, handle them, describe them, become puzzled by them, ask questions about them, argue about them, and then to try to find answers to their questions. As the act of always want to further o find out the answers, will help students to gain long-term memory on the topics because of their fully understanding on them.

Besides, teachers should engage students actively. Students need to have many and varied opportunities for collecting, sorting and cataloging; observing, note taking and sketching; interviewing, polling, and surveying; and using hand lenses, microscopes, thermometers, and other common instruments. They should be able to dissect (analyze); measure, count, graph, and compute.

Among the activities as listed above, none is more important than measurement, in that figuring out what to measure, what instruments to use, how to check the correctness of measurements, and how to configure and make sense out of the results are at the heart of much of science especially in Physics.

Furthermore, in 1960s began with Bruner's (1961) expressive call for discovery methods, in which the learners are allowed to discover new rules and ideas rather than being required to memorize what the teacher says.

Bruner's message helped touch off a outbreak of research studies aimed at comparing various forms of discovery methods: pure discovery methods, in which the student receives problems to solve with little or no guidance from the teacher.

On the other hand, guided discovery methods, in which the student receives problems to solve but the teacher also provides hints, direction, coaching, feedback, or modeling to keep the student on track; and expository methods, in which the student is given the problem along with the correct answer.

In many ways, guided discovery appears to offer the best method for promoting constructivist learning. The challenge of teaching by guided discovery is to know how much and what kind of guidance to provide and to know how to specify the desired outcome of learning. In some cases, direct instruction can promote the cognitive processing needed for constructivist learning, but in others, some mixture of guidance and exploration is needed.

Last but not least, in Piaget's (1970) vision of constructivist education, in which students would choose situations to manipulate as they saw fit, discover when their current conceptions conflicted with their observations without teachers providing a correct answer.

The best way to help students develop the conservation concepts they need to move into the concrete operational stage of cognitive growth-pure discovery methods, in which students work with conservation materials on their own, or guided discovery methods, in which teachers direct students' attention toward relevant aspects of the conservation task.

Activity may help promote meaningful learning, but instead of behavioral activity such as hands-on activity, discussion, and free exploration, however, the kind of activity that really promotes meaningful learning is cognitive activity, for example, selecting, organizing, and integrating knowledge.

Instead of depending solely on learning by doing or learning by discussion, the most genuine approach to constructivist learning is learning by thinking. Methods that rely on doing or discussing should be judged not on how much doing or discussing is involved but rather on the degree to which they promote appropriate cognitive processing.

In conclusion, guidance, structure, and focused goals should not be ignored. This is the consistent and clear lesson of decade after decade of research on the effects of inquiry-discovery approach in teaching and learning in Science.

5.0 Conclusion

Inquiry is a complete learning guide that it is best used as an across-the-curriculum handbook, helping students with all aspects of their thinking and learning. Classroom inquiry helps learners to formulate explanations from evidence. Besides, learners will be able to evaluate their explanations in light of alternative explanations, particularly those reflecting scientific knowledge. Indirectly, they can learn to communicate and justify their proposed explanations.

Discovery of problem-solving rules can help to yield against pure discovery as a useful method of instruction. Learners will be learn better when they are active compare to when a teacher helps to guide them in productive directions.

In conclusion, the best course for constructivist-oriented educators is to focus on techniques that guide students' cognitive processing during learning and that focus on clearly specified educational goals.

We cannot talk about what is learned separately from how it is learned, as if a variety of experiences all lead to the same understanding. Rather, what we understand is a function of the content, the context, the activity of the learner, and, perhaps most importantly, the goals of the learner. Since understanding is an individual construction, we cannot share understandings but rather we can test the degree to which our individual understandings are compatible.