15th Symposium on Education


The Scientists' Notebook as a learning tool

Barbara K. Walton-Faria, Thompson Middle School, Newport, RI

Science literacy as defined by the National Research Council is the ability to solve problems, think critically, work cooperatively, and be a lifelong learner. Pedagogy found to be instrumental in achieving science literacy and equity for all students is inquiry-based science. Inquiry-based science refers to the “activities of students as they develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world”. Inquiry involves “making observations; posing questions; examining sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results”.

A major key to success in inquiry-based science lies in the use of a “scientists' notebook”. The primary role of the scientists' notebook is to be a part of and a record of the students' learning process. The notebook also provides evidence that the student understands important science concepts that are aligned with State Science Frameworks. It is an effective tool for assessing student progress toward achievement of those standards. Teachers monitor the notebooks and use them as a tool towards understanding if a student grasps the main concepts of a lesson. This formative assessment is used to inform instructional decisions. The scientists' notebook is a powerful tool to improve both learning and teaching in the science classroom.

Students use scientists' notebooks to help organize and reflect on their thoughts and information. Scientists' notebooks enable students to see and connect the progression of an investigation from its question to its conclusions and reflections. They are a valuable resource for reporting, discussions, or the creation of a final product. They serve as a vehicle to work on expository writing skills. But most importantly, scientists' notebooks allow students the chance to investigate, question, record, analyze and conclude like real scientists.

Scientists' notebooks create habits of thinking in our students. The work done is purposeful – students are investigating questions, making predictions, planning procedures, collecting, organizing and analyzing data and drawing conclusions which use their evidence to answer their original questions. Scientists' notebooks are an invaluable diagnostic tool for teachers enabling them to monitor student progress and thinking and then determine the next best instructional practice for that student. The scientists' notebook informs both teaching and learning in the science classroom.

Poster Session 1, Educational Initiatives
Sunday, 29 January 2006, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall A2

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