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Approaches to science education

Expository vs Inquiry science education at Canadian private schools

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Expository

Expository science is the more traditional method of teaching science: students learn scientific facts, theories, and the relationships between them through direct instruction by the teacher. These programs still incorporate hands-on experimentation and “live science”; however, relative to inquiry-based programs, expository science tilts towards content mastery and knowledge acquisition. Direct instruction ensures this acquisition process is efficient. Textbooks are emphasized (starting in earlier grades than inquiry-based programs), as are knowledge tests: students are asked to demonstrate they have thoroughly learned the content of the course, and can apply that knowledge to novel and challenging problems or questions.



Inquiry

Inquiry-based science emphasizes teaching science as a way of thinking or practice, and therefore tries to get students “doing” science as much as possible -- and not just “learning” it. Students still learn foundational scientific ideas and content (and build on this knowledge progressively); however, relative to expository science instruction, inquiry-based programs have students spend more time developing and executing their own experiments (empirical and theoretical). Students are frequently challenged to develop critical and scientific-thinking skills by developing their own well-reasoned hypothesis and finding ways to test those hypotheses. Projects and experiments are emphasized over textbook learning. Skills are emphasized over breadth of knowledge.

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Equal Balance

Science programs that balance expository and inquiry learning equally will likely have an equal blend of tests and experiments; direct, textbook-based instruction and student-centred projects.

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