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Reforming Education: The pursuit of learning through authentic inquiry in mathematics, science and technology

By James J. Watters and Carmel M. Diezmann


Contemporary learning theories acknowledge that learning has to occur in context where students engage actively in negotiating meaning around new experiences. Learning theorists argue that the most important source from which we gain understanding is first-hand experience in a social context. However, traditional schooling is dominated by models of teaching, which assume learning occurs through transmission of information. Students are forced to learn from secondary experience, in which information is selected, modified, packaged and presented to them by “expert‿ teachers. Second-hand transmissive models dominate schooling. The outcome for the sciences is a decline in interest and participation by students especially the most talented. Reform processes need to achieve a better balance between first-hand and second-hand experience, because without opportunities to learn directly students are less likely to develop autonomy and think and feel for themselves.\ud \ud The research we report in this paper draws upon a number of our studies in which students are engaged in original inquiry problems. We report here on two studies that exemplify the application and outcomes for learning science in the middle years of schooling. Study 1 is a structured inquiry in which the teacher leads students through a series of learning experiences supporting their learning of content and developing capability to undertake inquiry. In Study 2, an open-ended inquiry is examined. Emerging from this analysis are seven principles that provide broad conditions for successful implementation of inquiry approaches

Topics: 130212 Science Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy, 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy, Inquiry learning, mathematics investigations, inquiry science, structured inquiry, open inquiry, classroom research
Year: 2004
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