Undersøgelsesbaseret undervisning i naturvidenskab

Observations before theory

Inquiry Based Science Education at Grenaa Gymnasium

– It is rare to meet two persons identical in their fascination of science and sharing the same drive and passion for Inquiry Based Science Education.

These were some of the words used by host Christian Thierry in welcoming Hanne Krøyer and Jesper Munk Jensen, two of Grenaa Gymnasium’s science teachers, at the recent Big Bang Conference. Hanne and Jesper were invited to share a specific element of their own practice as science teachers. During their talk there were also video-recorded contributions from some of the students lucky enough to have Hanne and Jesper as their teachers as the host Thierry put it.

The Big Bang Conference is a national annual conference for everybody who aim professionally to strengthen children’s and young people’s interest in science which is necessary to have more opting for science-based further educations like engineering and medicine.

Hanne and Jesper shared their hands-on experience introducing the empirical dimension in a unit before the theoretical one. Most teachers always do it the other way round: theory first and then, at the end of a unit, the lab-based activities testing the theory.

Undersøgelsesbaseret undervisning i naturvidenskab på Grenaa GymnasiumTeachers will not have to start from scratch

Hanne and Jesper mentioned concrete examples of how to turn the units upside down, so to say.

– Initiating a unit about landscapes, I might let the students take photos of the landscape where they live and ask them to observe the landscape they see. We then use their input  in class to map out Djursland, our local area, Hanne explains.

– Similarly, in a unit about thermodynamics, we may start out with lab observations of processes in cooling bags, and the students’ own asssumptions and wonder becomes the point of departure for learning the theory that can explain the observations.

– This strengthens the students’ ability to integrate their empirical data with theory, Jesper adds.

– You can have this approach on all levels and it does not mean that you have to teach new topics.
Jesper stresses that they always let their students experience both approaches. – It all depends on what role you want the experiments to play in a given unit, he explains.
Read about other IBSE-projects at Grenaa Gymnasium

Undersøgelsesbaseret undervisning i naturvidenskab på Grenaa GymnasiumExperiments rouse curiosity

Hanne and Jesper have asked their students what they think of units being taught with lab experiments before theory.

Maya El-Baalbaki, a finishing year STX student says, I think it spurs interest and makes you wonder ‘why did that happen?!’ and ‘why were our predictions wrong?’. So it makes you want to find out.
Her classmate Sarah Bang Andersen agrees. – In the experiment you are not quite sure what you are doing or what happens, but afterwards when you acquire knowledge you’re like ‘so that was what happened!’ and that is fun.

– It is very clear that the students generally feel that having the theoretical knowledge before conducting the experiments feels safer, Hanne explains.

– But it is equally clear that doing the experiments before the theory rouses curiosity, and often it makes them understand the theory more easily.

Furthermore, the two science teachers have made the observation that the experiments-first units make students unafraid of conducting their own experiments for their finishing year project. – They are by then used to carrying out experiments they are unfamiliar with and they are significantly better at integrating their data with theoretical knowledge, Hanne concludes.