Introduction

Each FOSS investigation follows a similar design to provide multiple exposures to science concepts. The design includes these pedagogies.

  • Active investigation, including outdoor experiences
  • Recording in science notebooks to answer focus questions
  • Reading in FOSS Science Resources
  • Assessment to monitor progress and motivate student reflection on learning

In practice, these components are seamlessly integrated into a continuum designed to maximize every student’s opportunity to learn. An instructional sequence may move from one pedagogy to another and back again to ensure adequate coverage of a concept.

Active Investigation

Active investigation is a master pedagogy. Embedded within active learning are a number of pedagogical elements and practices that keep active investigation vigorous and productive.

Context: questioning and planning. Active investigation requires focus. The context of an inquiry can be established with a focus question or challenge from you or in some cases, from students. At other times, students are asked to plan a method for investigation. This might start with a teacher demonstration or presentation. Then you challenge students to plan an investigation. In either case, the field available for thought and interaction is focused. This clarification of context and purpose results in a more productive investigation.

Activity: doing and observing. In the practice of science, scientists put things together and take things apart, observe systems and interactions, and conduct experiments. This is the core of science—active, firsthand experience with objects, organisms, materials, and systems in the natural and designed worlds. In the FOSS Program, students engage in the same processes as scientists. Students often conduct investigations in collaborative groups of four, with each student taking a role and contributing to the effort.

The active investigations in FOSS are cohesive and build on each other and the readings to lead students to a comprehensive understanding of concepts. Through the investigations, students gather meaningful data.

Data management: recording and organizing. Data accrue from observation, both direct (through the senses) and indirect (mediated by instrumentation). Data are the raw material from which scientific knowledge and meaning are synthesized. During and after work with materials, students record data in their notebooks. Data recording is the first of several kinds of student writing. Students then organize data so that the data will be easier to think about. Tables allow efficient comparison. Organizing data in a sequence (time) or series (size) can reveal patterns. Students process some data into graphs, providing visual displays of numerical data. Students also organize data and process them in the science notebook.

Analysis: discussing and writing explanations. The most important part of an active investigation is extracting its meaning. This constructive process involves logic, discourse, and existing knowledge. Students share their explanations for phenomena, using evidence generated during the investigation to support their ideas. They conclude the active investigation by writing a summary in their science notebooks of their learning as well as questions raised during the activity.