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Words of Wisdom About Adding Inquiry to Your Classroom

By Bobbie Hinson, AP Biology Teacher
Providence Day School
Charlotte, NC

Biology teacher Bobbie Hinson, who has taught for 36 years, is both excited and nervous about the upcoming changes to the AP Biology curriculum. When asked for advice for her colleagues as they start thinking about how to incorporate inquiry in their laboratory instruction, she came up with the following 5 tips.

  1. Learn all you can about teaching science through inquiry. Whether you’re a novice or a master teacher, it isn’t wise to jump into this strategy without preparation. Read everything you can about it. Although many books about inquiry-based instruction are available, one stands out for high school teachers: Teaching High School Science Through Inquiry: A Case Study Approach by Douglas Llewellyn.
  2. Don’t expect to do it all the first year. Becoming competent in inquiry-based instruction is a journey. Try it, reflect, collaborate with colleagues, and evaluate.
  3. Modify your activities and labs a little at a time to make them more inquiry-based. You can’t revamp your entire repertoire at once.
  4. Students may vary in their acceptance of the push towards inquiry. They may be very excited in the beginning, but as they realize they must become more responsible for their own learning, they may resist. Stick with it! As they become empowered and experience the excitement of learning through this strategy, they become more accepting and fulfilled.
  5. Finally, get comfortable with your changing role and the changing climate within the classroom. You must hone your questioning skills and your classroom management to create an atmosphere conducive to inquiry-based instruction. Remember, this takes time. You won’t become an expert overnight!
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