Inquiry strategies in Sciences

‘Every cell from a cell’– Rudolf Virchow

This term the MYP-4 students have been involved with the learning about cells and cellular processes. The statement of inquiry is Our identity is determined by the relationship between different levels of organization in our body which, although differing in complexity, share patterns and functions with all life on earth.

In order to explore the question – How is life organized? the class used included a variation of learning methodologies- from inquiry-based learning approaches to investigative approach. The students demonstrated their ATL skills to investigate problem and explore possible solutions, elaborate on concepts and processes and evaluate their understanding in the light of available evidence or information and construct new understandings.

Investigative approaches

Using the scientific design cycle students designed and applied scientific method to investigate scientifically oriented questions-How the process of osmosis differs from diffusion, how do different factors affect the process of photosynthesis or activity of enzymes and by performing the fatigue muscle activity they investigated anaerobic respiration.

Debating ethical issues and making decisions

Embryonic stem cell research–An ethical dilemma

The students participated in the debate on stem cell research to develop the critical thinking skills and communication skills. Though Stem cell research offers great promise for understanding basic mechanisms of human development and differentiation, as well as the hope for new treatments for diseases such as diabetes, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, and myocardial infarction. It also raises sharp moral, ethical and political controversies.

Instead of one and only final debate round, the students engaged in different ‘rounds’ of the debate which helps students think through the issues and reconsider their opinions. The structure also shows them how to build a discussion and back up their opinions with facts. This activity is inspired by ‘I’m a scientist get me out of here’ debate tools provided by imascientist.org.uk.

Role play round- The students were encouraged to choose any one character out of eight Characters

For funding Against funding
• Steve Silver – Wheelchair user • Maddie Clark – Embryonic stem cell scientist • Orrick Adair MP – Politician • Prof. Gala Takana – Historian of science • Dr Rosie Swann – GP • Rahul Singh Gupta – Human rights campaigner • Abigail Chandler – Former IVF patient • Owen Martins – Children’s charity worker  

This introductory activity encouraged the participants to practise discussing and debating issues and expressing an opinion. It also stabilised their understanding of the arguments for and against the use of embryonic stem cells. The students were encouraged to reflect and form ideas according to the character their had chosen.

For the final round we used the Socratic seminar strategy instead of formal debating format. The aim was to ensure deeper understanding about the issues of ethical implications of embryonic stem cell research through a group discussion format. In this context, students listen closely to the comments of others, think critically and articulate their own thoughts and responses to the thoughts of others.

Towards the end of the activity students formed groups who advocated stem cell research and who disagreed with it and presented their persuasive agreements and counter arguments.

Modelling the cellular division (mitosis)

To identify the role of mitosis in cell division and describe the phases of mitosis, the students used the modelling activity to investigate the phases of the cell cycle- mitosis.

It encourages the students to practice their transferrable skills as creativity, curiosity, resilience, resourceful and collaboration skills. It is also a part of kinesthetic learning style.

Role reversal – Developing assessment paper

The students prepared their own assessment paper for criterion A.

After brainstorming regarding the choice of command terms the students chose the group to work on different achievement levels (from 1-8) for criterion A- knowledge and understanding.

This activity is aimed to strengthen the students’ evaluation of their own conceptual understanding of cellular processes. Their own questions and possible answers hopefully would guide their learning process and command over command terms.

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