What is Scientific Inquiry
Science comes from the Latin word “scientia” which means knowledge. Obtaining that knowledge starts from asking questions. Once the question is asked, what follows is a series of processes known as the “Scientific Inquiry. ” One can therefore say that scientific inquiry is a way in which discoveries are shared. Since scientific inquiry is a process, the steps to be undergone must be definite or follow a set rules. The data obtained for example must be empirical, observable and measurable. One reason is that any discovery made through scientific inquiry must be verifiable and repeatable.
That is, it can be done by other people and reach the same conclusion. The steps to be followed in making a scientific inquiry is that after the question has been asked, the next step is to formulate a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a suggested answer to the question asked. In order to check if the hypothesis made is true, an experiment is then done. The results of the experiment can either support the hypothesis or not. Whatever the result is, a conclusion is then made. Scientific inquiry therefore can be simplified into four steps. First step is to ask a question on a particular phenomenon.
If the problem seems to be a new one, then move to the next step. The second step involves making an explanation. The third step is to make a prediction based on the explanation made. That is, if the explanation is true, what happens after? What consequences will arise? The fourth and final step is to do a test. The tests usually done is to disprove the explanation made in the second step. If one is unable to do so, then the explanation is said to be proven as true. The model discussed above though is not the only one that can be done.
That is, the process that involves hypothesis then experiment then results. In zoology for example, observation instead of experimentation is used. In physics, since some experiments can be done physically, scientists instead do what is called as “thought experiments” if they want to find out if their hypothesis is true. While different fields follow different steps, scientific inquiry has certain features that distinguishes it from other methods. As already mentioned earlier, the result must not only be objective but the results must be repeatable.
Meaning other people can do the same processes and come up with the same conclusion or results. Remember that the first step in science inquiry is about asking a question. Students, elementary in particular, can learn not only how to ask questions but also use facts and evidence in answering them. As the student undergoes the process of scientific inquiry, he or she will learn how to how to conduct experiments or do investigations. The students also learns how to get results or facts from a wide number of sources in order to get their answers.
Again, since it is a process, scientific inquiry is therefore not limited to science subjects alone. It can be used on an assortment of topics like history, physical education and even mathematics. Let us say for example than an elementary teacher wants to introduce the class to the concept of Subtraction. By the method of counting, the teacher can ask the students how many ducks, for example, are left when one of the ten ducks is a pond swims away. Continuously doing these, like what if two swim away, the students will be able to get the idea of subtraction.
The teacher should be able to activate the interrogating skills of children and then aid them in the process by giving them data to observe and understand. This way, both the learning and thinking processes of the child are facilitated. Another thing to remember in conducting scientific inquiry is that if one does not want to be involved in a though experiment, then the teacher should ensure that the students can avail of the instruments that are needed. The instruments need not be laboratory instruments but also things that can be found even in nature or in the surroundings.
Suppose the teacher wants the class to know what factors are needed in order to determine the visibility of, say, a rainbow. The hypothesis would be that since the light coming from the sun can travel through rain drops, the rain drops disperses the sun’s light into colors which can then be seen by the eyes. With this in mind, the proposed experiment would be that if a student faces a rising sun from the east on an early rainy morning, then the student will be able to see a rainbow. We expect then that the result of the experiment would that the student will be able to see a rainbow if he faces east on a rainy morning.
Now suppose that when the student did so, he or she did not see a rainbow. But when the student looked the other way or west, a rainbow was observed. Under the process of scientific inquiry, one can then conclude that in order to view a rainbow, one must not be facing the sun. The visibility of a rainbow thus have other factors aside from the light of the sun being dispersed by the rain drop. What those factors are, the teacher can then again have the students conduct another scientific inquiry. The concept of scientific inquiry is thus very important in a classroom setting.
Conducting scientific inquiry in class means that the students will be able to practice high order thinking skills while learning science using a hands-on approach. By teaching this concept at an early age, the skills they develop as a result will prove beneficial in the future. Among others, the process encourages children to think using their problem solving skills, to be resourceful in gathering, analyzing and interpreting information provided in their environment, to be able to make predictions that could aid them in decision-making, and most importantly, to find ways to survive in a constantly evolving world.