Throughout my teaching career, it has been my goal to give my students as many opportunities as possible to conduct investigations in order to facilitate learning of a specific topic. However, class sizes have skyrocketed, testing has increased ten-fold, and supply budgets have decreased. Teachers need to be savvy with class time and resources while also tracking student growth. Finding the time to give students the opportunity to carry out investigations while also sleeping and periodically spending time with my family had become increasingly difficult.
Students need the opportunity to carry out investigations, but I found that many of the students were confusing the independent and dependent variables and confirming their own misconceptions as they were collecting data. For example, I recall students dropping a ball and they were supposed to record how high the ball bounced after the first and second bounce, every year at least one group swears that the ball bounced back to the original height after both the first and second bounce. Confirmation bias anyone? Somehow I needed to find a way to help students overcome their misconceptions while also giving them as many opportunities as possible to carry out investigations.
With Inq-ITS, my students are able to conduct 8 or more virtual labs each year. Since each virtual lab contains three to four activities that means that if I carve out eight class days from my school year to complete Inq-ITS virtual labs (spaced out throughout the school year) my students could get 32 different opportunities to carry out individual investigations! In my own classes, I have noticed a marked improvement in science practices when students have completed four or more virtual labs. This assessment is a far more valid proof of student growth than any multiple-choice or standardized assessment.
Regardless of whether students are studying Physical, Life, or Earth Science, Inq-ITS Virtual Labs give students the opportunity to investigate the impact of the various independent variables on the dependent variables. Teachers are able to view the assessment data and discover whether an individual student is struggling with a specific skill or practice. In the Planning and Carrying out an Investigation phase of the lab, students are given the opportunity to select various independent variables and manipulate the value of the independent variables. The Inq-ITS real-time assessment lets teachers know whether the students are in fact targeting their independent variable or controlling their investigation.
Example: If I increase the height of the tower, then the velocity of the sled will increase.
Through the use of Inq-ITS students can conduct investigations in a manner that helps them overcome their misconceptions and delve into data collection without the impact of confirmation bias that so many students seem to display. The ability to collect data and complete investigations in a way that is simply not possible in a classroom is a revolutionary change for teachers.