Student Generated Questions in the Science Classroom

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Submitted By ethapaliya
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Student generated questions in an Earth Science Classroom

In my Earth Science class, I showed students a photo of the Hubble Deep Field, the farthest we have ever seen in space. I asked them “What kind of questions come to mind looking so deep into space?” A majority of the students were completely stumped. Their minds were blank and they even seemed uncomfortable with the process. Obviously, I was so disappointed. Science, at its heart, is relentless curiosity and questioning. Asking questions and defining problems is one of the eight scientific practices outlined as essential to K-12 science curriculum in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2011). “Asking questions is essential to developing scientific habits of mind.” (NRC, 2011, p. 3-6). Yet several researchers describe the decline of student questioning and curiosity as they progress in school (Dillon, 1988; Engelhard, Jr. & Monsaas, 1988), and in particular, there is a preciptious decline in questions from low achieving students (Good, Slavings, Harel, and Emerson, 1987). What we see instead is that the majority of questions are initiated by the teacher, answered by students, and then evaluated by the teacher (Lemke, 1990). Conversely, when the students generate and ask the questions, it creates a far more powerful metacognitive and more scientific practice. I seek to encourage my 8th grade Earth Science students to ask their own questions at every opportunity. This article describes a variety of strategies used in a Rocks and Minerals unit for 8th grade students, but the techniques are adaptable to any concept or age group.
Strategies to increase student questions Novel items are a great source of questions, although unfamiliar content may generate lower level questions (Chin, Brown, & Bruce, 2002; van Zee et al, 2001). At the beginning of the unit students examined several…...

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