Learning and Teaching
4.2 The Enquiry Approach
Taking the guiding principles into consideration, teachers are encouraged to adopt diversified learning and teaching strategies. Enquiry-based learning is a commonly used approach among them.
Enquiry-based learning is a student-centred approach which helps students to integrate generic skills, knowledge and values in the learning of GS.
In the enquiry process, students are active constructors of knowledge and the teacher is a facilitator of learning. Instead of the teacher giving the right answers, students have to raise questions, find their own answers and look for
the necessary information. They are engaged in identifying problems, collecting information and solving the problems they encounter. Enquiry is not so much seeking the right answer — because sometimes there is none — but rather, seeking appropriate solutions to problems.
4.2.1 Merits of Enquiry-based Learning
Enquiry-based learning is an effective approach for learning and teaching of GS because it enables students to:
❖ develop generic skills and nurture enquiring attitudes or habits of mind that will enable students to continue the quest for knowledge throughout life
❖ take a proactive role in the learning process to construct knowledge about the natural and man-made world
❖ become self-directed independent learners
❖ develop a holistic view of themselves as individuals in the community, their place in the natural world, and the interaction of human beings with the environment
❖ develop an interest in exploring, investigating and generating solutions for problems emerging from the study of social and science-related content 4.2.2 Major Strategies of Enquiry-based Learning
To implement enquiry-based learning, students may be involved in different types of learning activities such as interviews, surveys, field trips, case studies, experiments, design and make, data collection and analysis. Instead of focusing on individual activities, teachers should plan and develop learning strategies to integrate these learning activities, so as to help students construct knowledge.
The following learning and teaching strategies have been used with success in many schools, both local and overseas.
(i) Project Learning
Project learning is one of the Four Key Tasks in the curriculum reform.
It is a powerful learning and teaching strategy to promote self-directed learning. It usually starts with challenging questions or problems, and involves students in planning, reading, analysing data and making decisions over a period of time. It enables students to connect their
knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, so as to construct knowledge through a variety of activities. Project learning provides an alternative learning experience by using a range of learning materials obtained through various channels for students to construct their own knowledge.
Project learning is pedagogically sound because:
❖ There is a focus on inspiring ideas
Project learning allows students to conduct in-depth investigation on central ideas and salient issues of a topic
❖ It is effective in guiding students to participate in learning activities enthusiastically
Project learning engages students in enquiry and problem-solving
❖ It promotes students’ learning techniques
Project learning encourages collaborative learning and fosters self-directed learning. It also develops students’ investigative skills
❖ It provides rich content for learning
Students are able to obtain plentiful learning experiences and construct relevant knowledge through different methods of enquiry The three stages of project learning
There are three stages in conducting project learning: the Preparation Stage (Idea Initiation), Implementation Stage (Enquiry Process) and Concluding Stage (Knowledge Building). Students may develop their independent learning capacities through the project and their initiative in learning is brought into full play in each stage.
(1) Preparation Stage - Idea Initiation To build up students' ownership of their projects, the first task is to set clear learning aims and objectives with students and to motivate them to do their projects. Teachers may arrange various activities, such as a talk from an expert, discussion on an issue, a site visit, mind-mapping to arouse students' concern and enhance their understanding of a topic. Teachers may then encourage students to participate in discussion actively and guide them to formulate researchable and challenging questions.
(2) Implementation Stage - Enquiry Process Students collect various types of information through different channels to build up their knowledge of the topic. Teachers should help students develop the skill of information processing, including the collection, review and selection of information. In the process, teachers may gradually give less guidance to students and encourage them to become more independent.
(3) Concluding Stage - Knowledge Building Apart from analysing and consolidating the information, students have to come to a conclusion and reflect on the whole project. Finally, they have to present, share and reflect on the outcome of the project. This may be done in a variety of forms such as written report, oral presentation, exhibition, model, web-page, seminar, etc.
For ideas about how project learning can be implemented in GS, please refer to the exemplars on the website of General Studies for Primary Schools at http://www.edb.gov.hk/index.aspx?nodeID=2822&langno=1 Teachers can assign cross-subject projects to integrate students’ learning experiences in different KLAs. It helps to enhance co-ordination and collaboration among teachers in the design of learning and teaching activities.
Points to note for Project Learning
To ensure that project learning serves the purpose of facilitating student learning, schools should attend to the following:
❖ Provide clearly defined learning objectives and guidance throughout the learning process
❖ Co-ordinate well among teachers of different KLAs / subjects so that projects are properly assigned to students
❖ Encourage cross-KLAs / cross-subject projects (e.g. once a year) to connect different areas of learning
❖ Use lesson time flexibly to enable students to conduct project work
❖ Put emphasis on both the learning process and its product (ii) Scientific Investigation
In the learning of GS, the development of students’ curiosity is more important than the learning of facts. The GS curriculum focuses on nurturing students’ ability to enquire and solve problems through a range of learning experiences relevant to their daily life. Student enquiry and the development of skills for learning to learn are emphasised.
In science and technology, it is important to involve students in first-hand investigations. The investigations suitable for students in this connection include exploration, fair testing, identification and classification, pattern-seeking and the testing of an explanation, etc.
Investigation involves the following steps:
Identifying the problem
❖ Propose testable questions related to the problem at hand
❖ Predict results using previous experience or observations
Designing an investigation
❖ Collect material for testing
❖ Discuss the variables involved in the fair test
❖ Identify variables to be controlled and those to be tested
Measuring and recording
❖ Perform experiment, use suitable instrument to collect data and present relevant data systematically and concisely
Interpretation of data
❖ Analyse collected data and draw conclusions
❖ Present the compiled report with IT tools
To identify problems and find solutions to them, students are actively involved in making observations, referring to information and data from different sources, analysing and synthesising information, doing experiments to test their hypotheses, and attempt to draw conclusion to solve the problems they encounter. Students’ creativity is promoted through these hands-on experiences and problem-solving processes.
To promote students’ interest in learning science through GS, the EDB has organised a number of learning activities (e.g. the Primary Science Project Exhibition jointly organised with other institutions) to develop students
into active learners who are keenly observant, able to pose questions and devise means of getting answers to their questions. Teachers are encouraged to refer to this scheme for planning investigation activities for their students. Relevant information and exemplars can be found in the following website:
Schools can also refer to the information on the Young Scientists Award Scheme website of EDB:
Moreover, teachers can refer to the EDB Depository of Curriculum-based Learning and Teaching Resources (General Studies) website for more exemplars and relevant links for investigative activities about science : http://www.hkedcity.net/edb/teachingresources/project/?p=science
Some examples of investigation are also provided below: