The invisible gorilla in your curriculum

The invisible gorilla in your curriculum

In a classic experiment, most subjects fail to notice a lady in a gorilla suit walking across the screen, because they're so focussed on their task they were giving. Are you falling into the same trap of 'attentional blindness' when you teach science?

If your focus too much on delivering knowledge, the invisible gorilla you might be missing is the purpose of school. It probably includes aspirations like building independent thinkers and life-long learners.

But how will students ever learn to think for themselves, if we're always spoon-feeding them knowledge with direct instruction.

As psychologist, Deanne Kuhn put it: is direct instruction the answer to the wrong question? In other words, does our focus on knowledge mean we ignoring the skills that students will need beyond the exam hall.

Kuhn believes that one of the most important skills is being able to inquire into knowledge.

In other words, inquiry is not a teaching method, it's an educational goal, alongside science content.

Of course that makes science teaching more challenging, but there is a well-established solution. It's to start with real phenomena, and taking students on a journey to develop scientific explanations using concepts and models.

This approach is known as model-based inquiry, and it's the basis of the reforms to US science education (which by the way were developed by science educators rather than handed down by government).

Of course, it involves lots of direct instruction. But the instruction focuses on  developing students scientific thinking as well as content knowledge. In a sense it's like a scientific apprenticeship - you're the mastery and students are the novices who are learning to understand, think and act like scientists. A meta-analysis found that model-based inquiry was more effective than pure direct instruction.

In our webinar series 'Transform your 11-14 curriculum' we'll show you how to use this approach to transform a topic.

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