As science teachers, we realize how important questions are to the advancement of science, and how vital they are to keeping student interest in science. We're also well aware of the need to march through the curriculum and have everyone arrive at mastery by the date of the state prescribed summative assessment in the spring. Balancing these two is one of the struggles I continually strive to understand and to overcome.
While the NGSS does legitimize student questions by incorporating it into the standards, it does not offer more time in the classroom for students to find the answers to the questions that they ask. We can spend a lot of time teaching kids how to ask questions as indicated in the SEPs, but we know that if they never have a chance to investigate their own questions, then they will lose interest in asking them. A culture of questions values students' questions enough to offer them time to investigate and find the answers.
So what's a good science teacher to do? Release all control of learning to the students and let them investigate their own questions using the practices and the crosscutting concepts? That sounds like fun, and it would certainly develop that culture of questions. But it also sounds like a recipe for chaos. I'm a big fan of controlled chaos, but I still need it to be directed towards the Performance Expectations that Kentucky has identified for my 7th grade students.
There has to be a way to balance the need to allow students to ask and answer their own questions and to keep the students progressing through the curriculum. Genius hour or 20% time could be a possible answer. Students could be given one day per week to engage in the practices of science to answer their own questions by engaging the the Science and Engineering Practices. I'd like to see this in action before I jump in, though.
What are your thoughts? What are you doing this week to develop a culture of questions in your science classroom? Let's move this dialog forward.