Promoting inquiry-based teaching of chemistry
Analysis of student performance in different areas of science in the 2006 PISA showed that Hungarian students demonstrated relative weaknesses in identifying scientific issues, knowledge about science and using scientific evidence. Since then Hungarian students’ mean performance on the combined science scale dropped below the average, causing concern amongst experts and decision-makers. Problems of teaching and learning science in Hungary have produced symptoms that have been widely discussed in the literature. Our 2008 investigation showed that science teachers were working under severe constraints in terms of time, lab assistance, external support and funding. Since then several changes have happened in the conditions of teaching. However, science teachers’ time remains precious and, together with the fact that the literature is often in English, this means that much education research goes unread. A possible answer to the demand of widening the students’ scientific skills might be sets of freely available teaching resources based on inquiry-based learning. One teacher trainee’s thesis described her experiences of a small scale pilot of an inquiry activity and summarised the advantages and disadvantages. One hundred and eighteen participants at five in-service chemistry courses were asked to convert ‘step-by-step’ practical instructions for students into activities, parts of which require groups of students to plan and discuss their work. Alternatively, participants could use a template to write novel activities. Seventy percent of materials produced by the teachers met the main criterion of an inquiry-based activity, but only some met all the criteria. These were edited and published on a website in Hungarian. They are free to try, criticise, modify and develop. The project described here provides a basis for devising and creating an online inquiry-based chemistry resource.