10 How to Teach for Student Discovery

March 30, 2021

Back in Episode 2, Erin and Nicole discussed using a student-led approach in your classroom. In a student led environment, student should learn through discovery. In this episode, Nicole explains how to teach for student discovery in an NGSS aligned class.

She also sheds light on passive learning activities. Many activities done in our classrooms are considered discovery-based. However, they are really “teaching-as-telling”.

What is “teaching-as-telling”?

“Teaching-as-telling” is a more traditional learning strategy in which the teacher provides students with the information that they will need. “Teaching-as-telling” is a passive learning model. When we think of it, we often think of a lecture-based instructional model.

However, “teaching-as-telling” comes in many forms. For example, provide students with information that they don't have to discover for themselves. Students don't need to discover information because it is given to them.

Here are some other examples:

  • Reading activities
  • Demos after which the teacher explains what happens

“Teaching-as-telling” is an method that provides students with the answers before they have a chance to figure it out for themselves.

What is a discovery-based approach?

Using a discovery-based approach, students develop an understanding of the concept or idea through their own experiences. The teachers explains and introduces vocabulary after the students already understand the basic concept. This is often referred to as an “explore before explain” approach.

This method is a constructivist approach to learning.

Example Discovery-Based NGSS Lesson

For example, let's look at two different ways to teach students about interactions in ecosystems.

In a traditional classroom, the teacher would tell students about the different interactions in ecosystems at the start of the lesson. The teachers would tell students about predation and other interactions. Then, the teacher would show a video to provide students with examples.

Using an explore-before-explain approach, the teacher provides students with pictures and information about the interactions. However, the text would only provide a limited description of the interaction without vocabulary terms. Also, the written information would not include explanations.

Then, the teacher would ask students to use the Crosscutting Concept of Patterns to look for patterns in these interactions. Students could then create groups based on the patterns that they observed. Finally, the teacher would provide them with the terms to describe the groups that the students have already created.

What is the benefit of a discovery-based approach in an NGSS class?(7:15)

There are several reasons that the discovery-based approach is beneficial. To begin, it is easier to incorporate the Science and Engineering Practices using a discovery-based approach. Students use the practices to figure out content.

Next, running the class takes a lot less work. It is true, you will spend more time planning. But, you will have more time during class to interact with students, build relationships and do so much more.

Also, this method leads to improved understand and retention of content. By providing students with an experience, they are able to connect more deeply with the material.

Want to learn more about using student discovery in your NGSS science class?

Resources referenced in this episode

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