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For Your Consideration 1.3

Science and Inquiry

For many of us, science is the domain of facts and figures – a convergent discipline that seeks correct answers and exact measurements. Science, after all, explains things.

While the results of scientific research do aim toward convergent conclusions, the process is particularly reliant upon divergent thinking. Scientists consistently venture into the unknown armed only with their creativity, intellectual curiosity and resourcefulness, and powers of observation.

Science uses inquiry to propel investigations. Even the “scientific method” that scientists employ is a structure for asking questions and challenging assumptions.

Docents in science-oriented institutions who are interested in teaching about the process of science, as well as its results, should find inquiry-oriented activities useful. While this mode of instruction may consume more time, it deepens the educational experience, conveys the excitement of discovery, and develops greater understanding on the part of learners.

A Sample Inquiry-oriented Science Activity

Concept: Classifications

Objectives: As learners develop and use categories of their own making to group facts and information, they will develop an understanding of the concept of classification and reasons why science works to classify all forms of matter.

Activity: Make a list of twenty items in one area of your facility. Distribute this list to students when in the appropriate gallery or area. Have the learners locate each of these items. Provide them with ample opportunity to look, learn, and ask questions.

Now, ask each learner to develop his own system of classification by “grouping like objects or life forms together.” The groupings should be of each learner’s own device. Groupings can be determined by appearance, function, habitat, or any other variable chosen.

Following this, discuss each participant’s classification. Relate the range of variables used by the participants to those variables actually used by biologists, chemists, zoologists, geologists, or other professionals whose work relates to your institution’s primary field.

Conclusion: Have participants talk about their understanding of what systems of classification are, why they are important, and how they might be useful.

Did you know…?

The Summer 1991 issue of Gifted Child Quarterly presented findings on I.Q., or intelligence quotients, researched by Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman. The educators reported that “scholars with any expertise in the area of intelligence and intelligence testing share a common view of the most important components of intelligence, and are convinced that it can be measured with some degree of accuracy.”

The respondents considered the following elements of intelligence to be most important:

Abstract thinking or reasoning 99.3%      Problem solving ability 97.7%

These figures stand in direct contrast with such variables as:

General knowledge 62.4%      Goal-directedness 24.0%


The findings seem to reinforce the usefulness of emphasizing skills related to acquiring information and problem-solving as practiced with inquiry teaching, over the presentation of facts and isolated pieces of information.

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 1.3 (Spring 1992): 11.


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