Wednesday, 9 July 2014

09:00 – When I walked Colin at 8:15, it was already muggy. The next two or three months are going to be miserable, particularly for furry guys like Colin. It’s no coincidence that all of the South’s big cities were sleepy little towns before air conditioning became widely available. Summer in the South can be pretty miserable.

I’m still struggling with the manual for our AP Chemistry kit. The problem is that the 2013 revision of the AP-recommended labs went from the old 22 labs that were mostly Structured Inquiry to only 16 labs that are all Guided Inquiry. As College Board says up-front, they had to reduce the number of labs because Guided Inquiry labs take a lot longer. They recommend that at least six of those labs, covering a wide range of topics, be done as Guided Inquiry investigations. It’s acceptable to do the others, as well as supplemental labs, as Structured Inquiry. Here are Wikipedia’s descriptions of the four levels of inquiry-based learning:

Level 1: Confirmation Inquiry – The teacher has taught a particular science theme or topic. He or she then develops questions and a procedure that guides students through an activity where the results are already known. This method is great to reinforce concepts taught and to introduce students into learning to follow procedures, collect and record data correctly and to confirm and deepen understandings.

Level 2: Structured Inquiry – The teacher provides the initial question and an outline of the procedure. Students are to formulate explanations of their findings through evaluating and analyzing the data that they collect.

Level 3: Guided Inquiry – The teacher only provides the research question for the students. The students are responsible for designing and following their own procedures to test that question and then communicate their results and findings.

Level 4: Open Inquiry – Students formulate their own research question(s), design and follow through with a developed procedure, and communicate their findings and results. This type of inquiry is often seen in science fair contexts where students drive their own investigative questions.

Obviously, whether by name or not, all four of those levels have their place in science education. The problem in a homeschool environment is that Guided Inquiry requires a guide. In other words, College Board assumes that these labs will be taught by a science teacher qualified in AP Chemistry. Some homeschool parents will meet that requirement, but the majority will not, and will be very uncomfortable in the role of AP Chemistry teacher. On the other hand, we’ll probably sell a lot of AP Chemistry Kits to public and private high schools that do have teachers qualified to teach AP Chemistry.

So I’ve decided on a compromise. I’ll write up all 16 of the core lab sessions as Guided Inquiry labs, which will be all that’s available in the student lab manual. The teacher’s manual will include materials for teachers who are doing the labs as Guided Inquiry, but will also include full alternative procedures for those who decide to teach some or all of the labs as Structured Inquiry. I’ll provide the teacher’s manual in both PDF and DOC formats to allow teachers to cut-and-paste material from that manual to create a modified student manual.

It’s a lot of work, and I’ll have to do this all over again when I do the AP Biology kit.