INQUIRY INTO ANIMAL TRACKS: AN EXPERIMENTAL APPLICATION OF IBSE -INQUIRY BASED SCIENCE EDUCATION- APPROACH IN THE ECOLOGICAL FIELD IN PRIMARY SCHOOL
University of Padova (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The results of international surveys (PISA, TIMSS, 2015) show a worsening of educational attainment and interest of Italian children in science. For many researchers the reason is that young people don’t often relate what they do at school with their daily life and don’t understand the benefit and usability of what they learn. In particular, the ecological topics are often perceived as theoretical and complicated to understand. Secondly, the Rocard Commission report, "Science Education Now: A Renewed Pedagogy for the future of Europe" (2007), highlighted the close link between teaching methods and the development of skills and positive results toward science education. There is an increasingly urgent request of Italian school to renovate the didactic methodology, mainly based on behaviourist theories. Many international studies indicate the Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) as the most effective approach to improve quality in science education. These considerations resulted in the present teaching research, aimed at testing two experimental hypotheses. The first one states that relating scientific contents to children’s contextual reality enables them to broach abstract ecological principles, encouraging a better understanding, also in a lifelong learning perspective, and gives students the opportunity to understand the benefit and usability of scientific studies, developing interest and a greater ecological awareness. The second one states that the use of a socio-constructivism scientific approach, based on inquiry, improves students’ performance, favouring high-level scientific competence development in the long term, develops positive attitudes toward scientific issues and increases interest in learning. Inquiry into animal tracks in the Montello area was chosen as a means to broach ecological principles, because it is the closest wood to children’s real experience. In this research, a sample of primary school science teachers was involved in this research in order to know what teaching practices and methods were used in science teaching. Two classes of primary school were also involved: one used as the experimental group and the other one as the control group, in which the science teacher used a traditional method. In the experimental group the educational path has been based on a structured inquiry level, considering Rodger Bybee’s proposal (2006) about the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Model, also known as the "5E Model" (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), the most popular application model of IBSE. In this way it was possible to make a comparison between the two teaching methods, by comparing the results of the ex-post ecological questionnaire and the ex-post cognitive autobiography and the follow-up questionnaire. In both groups an ex-ante questionnaire and autobiography were also administered, in order to validate the homogeneity of the selected groups. In the ecological questionnaire, concerning knowledge and ecological awareness, in general the experimental group achieved a better standard in both the ex-post administration and in the follow-up one, because it established a meaningful link between abstract concepts and everyday reality and it used an active teaching approach. As to the general interest in science studies and especially in environmental issues, a significant increase was reported only in the experimental group, which realized how beneficial such a study is in everyday life.
Keywords: Primary school, Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE), animal tracks, contextual reality, lifelong learning, ecological awareness.