Ireland: National workshops to enhance the use of Inquiry-Based learning approach among teachers

Country in Focus Article #5: To promote curiosity among science students in junior secondary level in Ireland, the Amgen Teach Coursework B suite of workshops aims to assist teachers in the effective use of inquiry based teaching strategies in their classroom. A related intended outcome is the increase of critical thinking among students in science subject areas.

This year, under the auspices of Amgen Teach, the PDST have facilitated 13 sets of 3-day workshops in various locations nationally.

230 teachers attended a Day 1 workshop regarding the Coursework B exam component of the Junior Certificate Science state exam. ‘Inquiry Based Science Education' (IBSE) was employed to offer teachers a structure with which to promote critical thinking among their students as they engaged with the exam. Day 2 took place on approximately 230 school sites. Day 1 attendees functioned as local facilitators and disseminated resources to promote the discussion of IBSE regarding Coursework B within their Science Department. Local facilitators returned to a final workshop (Day 3) and engaged with experiments that afforded opportunities for cognitive conflict and confrontation with common misconceptions in order to highlight how IBSE might be modeled by teachers in their own classroom.

PDST resources provided to teacher facilitators included energy-sticks, digital balances, multi-meters, show-me boards, Day 1 and Day 3 booklets and USB keys containing relevant pedagogical material. The booklet for Day 1 included suggestions for using inquiry based learning to help guide students through the Coursework B exam investigation. The booklet provided on Day 3 included 31 experiments in Physics and Chemistry that could be harnessed to promote critical thinking among science students in the classroom.

Teacher feedback from the workshops included:

‘Activities were hands-on combined with professional interaction helping to get rid of misconceptions'.

‘Sharing and discussing with other teachers the practical experience was invaluable - more of this please'. 

‘This was a fantastic  sharing (opportunity) of professional knowledge that I could not have received anywhere else and the quality of the booklets that supported it means that I will be confident using an inquiry learning approach in my own classroom'.