IBL and the World of Work (WoW)
mascil aims to promote a widespread use of inquiry-based science teaching (IBST) in primary and secondary schools. The major innovation of mascil is to connect IBST in school with the World of Work (WoW) making science more meaningful for young European students and motivating their interest in careers in science and technology. These aims are summarized in the mascil diagram.
Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is defined as being inductive, student-centered and focused on creativity and collaboration (Doorman, 2011). IBL aims to develop and foster inquiring minds and attitudes that are vital for students to face and manage uncertain futures. Fundamentally, IBL is based on students adopting an active, questioning approach. The problems they address are supposed to be experienced as real, they inquire and pose questions themselves, explore problem situations and evaluate results. Learning is driven by open questions and multiple-solution strategies.
IBL asks for teachers being proactive: they support and encourage students who are struggling, make constructive use of students’ prior knowledge, challenge students through probing questions, manage small group and whole class discussions, encourage the discussion of alternative viewpoints and help students to make connections between their ideas (Crawford, 2000).
IBL is seen to be effective in both primary and secondary education in increasing children’s interest and attainment levels as well as in stimulating teacher motivation (Rocard, 2007; Furtak, Seidel, Iverson & Briggs, 2012; Schroeder et al. 2007). IBL motivates students and enhances learning outcomes.
World of Work
In order to enforce the benefits of IBL and make science and mathematics more meaningful to students rich vocational contexts will be used, to connect mathematics and science to the World of Work (WoW).
Research findings show that students experience and understand the functionality, purpose and utility of disciplinary knowledge in the workplace (Ainley, Pratt & Hansen, 2006; Dierdorp et al., 2011; Mazereeuw, 2013). For this to happen however, it is important that tasks are carefully designed and fit the goals of the curriculum. In the context of work the use of science and mathematics emerges from the activities and tasks of the workplace (Hoyles and Noss, 2010).
The use of rich vocational contexts asks a lot from teachers. They have to master contextual knowledge and skills as well as connecting content-context knowledge and skills. We do not want to suggest that every lessons should be cast in a vocational context, but the starting point for mascil is that these contexts are an important ingredient of good education.
Connecting tasks to the WoW
Four dimensions can be considered for connecting tasks to the World of Work: Context, Role, Activity and Products. First of all, the context in which the task is set relates to the World of Work. The activities students do should have a clear purpose, involve authentic problems and reveal how mathematics and science are used in the World of Work. The activities can be more or less similar to activities actually carried out by workers in the workplace with more or less use of authentic tools or artefacts. Also, the ways of working are supposed to reflect characteristics of daily work, for example by creating an incentive for teamwork or division of labor. Within the task students are placed in a professional role fitting the context of the task. In some sense students step out of their role as a student. This is all the more clear if the outcome of the task is a product meant for an appropriate audience:
‘The owner of an apartment building wants to build a new parking lot. You are the architect who is given this assignment . Your task is to design a parking lot meeting the requirements…..’
‘The product you need to deliver is a technical drawing of your design as well as a letter to the owner of the building explaining your design and the decisions you made.
Excerpt from the parking lot task
Not every task will have a similar emphasis on each of these four dimensions, but for a strong connection with the World of Work these dimensions all need to be taken into account.
Tasks that are designed for IBL and WoW will not automatically foster students’ inquiry and create a sense of purpose for them. Inquiry-based learning is not about using new tasks. Tasks offer students the opportunity to make decisions and to question situations, but the tasks do not in themselves guarantee inquiry-based learning. The role of the teacher is crucial here. Teachers need to scaffold the inquiry of students by being proactive: they support and encourage students who are struggling, and extend the skills of the ones that are succeeding through the use of carefully chosen strategic questions. They value students’ contributions – including mistakes – and scaffold learning using students’ reasoning and experiences (Crawford, 2000). The implementation of this support by teachers in daily practice asks for carefully planned lessons and valuing inquiry-related learning goals. The mascil diagram is an attempt to summarize the learning outcomes, the classroom culture, the learning environment and the roles of teachers and students in the inquiry-based classroom.