Developing an inquiry culture in education

Friday, 19 June, 2020

Developing an inquiry culture in education

Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, wants students to be engaged and to see an inquiry culture developed and embedded into our education system — particularly in key subject areas including science, technology and engineering. 

To further that goal, CSIRO developed the CREST (Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Technology) program, which employs three strategies to achieve desired outcomes: 

  • Varied and flexible teacher professional learning — the CREST Professional Learning program
  • Resources to prepare for and support student inquiry
  • Recognition of student inquiry — the CREST Awards

CSIRO says an inquiry approach to both teaching and learning helps students explore the world around them, act upon curiosity and question their own understanding. This helps build learners that are capable of constructing deep, reliable and lasting ideas about the world because they develop skills and capacities for thinking, learning and acting scientifically.

CSIRO says this prepares students for the world of tomorrow, allowing them to form, practise and apply critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding, personal and social capabilities, as well as other fundamentals including literacy and numeracy. The organisation believes curiosity, open-minded thinking, perseverance and scepticism are key disposition characteristics for a rapidly changing world.

CREST is structured in a way that allows Years 3 to 12 to gradually progress beyond teacher-directed learning through to open inquiry. CSIRO says it can be incorporated into programs in a multitude of ways that facilitate the differing structures and learning approaches utilised from school to school — or class to class. It says each of the following approaches have all be used successfully:  

  • As an integral part of the class work program and potentially part of assessment
  • As an option for assessment (as an alternative to a research assignment)
  • As an extracurricular or after-school club activity
  • As a major unit of work in extension classes
  • As a part of a Science Inquiry Skills unit in primary or junior secondary science
  • As a whole subject in a vertical curriculum
  • As a major project in senior science classes

The CREST Awards program is competency-based and non-competitive, nationally recognising inquiries of primary and secondary students across six levels of awards as defined by the nature of the inquiry.  

CREST Professional Learning uses education specialists to engage with teachers for discussion and workshops. CREST members share practices, experiences and ideas to collaboratively advance their own knowledge and understanding of science, technology and engineering, along with pedagogical practices to facilitate inquiry. CSIRO believes teachers at any stage of their career or with any degree of experience can benefit. 

While workshops are currently shelved due to COVID-19, they are planned for the second half of 2020. For further information on the program and how it can be implemented in your school, or to register for future events, visit the CSIRO CREST webpage here

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