Saturday, 26 August 2017 11:40

Enquiry Based Learning Featured

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Former Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, presented a plan to the federal government to increase school students' interest in choosing a career in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM). 21st Century industries are already looking more and more for employees with these skills, but there has been a significant decline in the number of students takings these subjects.

"If we've got young people coming through the system who are interested in science, fascinated by science and understand how awesome science can be, then we'll be better off for it," he said.

Some people recommend that Science and Mathematics be made compulsory but Professor Chubb says 'There's not much point making something compulsory if it's not actually attractive. I would much rather make these subjects so compellingly interesting that students want to do them.' Professor Geoff Prince, Director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, has made similar comments.

The Federal Government responded promising 12 million dollars for STEM training in schools.

The positive outcome here is that scientific learning i.e. enquiry based learning is recognised as more important than data consumption. As American National Research Council, 1996 aptley put it:

Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with inquiry, including asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments.

The downside is that techniques for developing critical thinking are not being applied to all subjects. We've been through this before in the 1960s and 70s with the absurd battle between the Sciences and the Arts. I studied both at university back then without needing to develop two different types of thinking!

For some very early samples of products of enquiry based learning read Herodotos' History of the Persian Wars, 5 thCentury BC. History is an ancient Greek word meaning 'learn by enquiry'.

In schools the approach to education is out of date but we wont fix it by doing it piecemeal. It needs a thorough overhaul that embraces learning for living life not just for vocational opportunities which is what the current system is built on.

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