Gillies, Robyn M. Inquiry-based science education (CRC Press, Taylor and Francis, 2020, 115 pages)
Review by Ferenc Arató
This book is the sixth volume of the Global Science Education series, edited by Ali Eftekhari. Robyn M. Gillies’s Inquiry-based science education is a critical contribution to the intended “encyclopedia of science education”.
Over the past two decades, who followed Robyn M. Gillies' work has been waiting for such a summary volume to be published! After all, the author consistently, accurately, and continuously incorporates scientific results, connects theory with practice in her work. Accurate to the guidance of Lewin and Deutsch, who established cooperative learning discourse and follows the Learning together model of cooperative learning - the pioneering work of David and Roger Johnson! In Gillies's works, she connects complex theoretical constructs with precise practical representations for the reader. Over the past two decades, Gillies's studies have focused on interaction in the context of space-time relations created by the cooperative learning discourse practice. She emphasizes the role of the dialogue as a key concept in her works. She has explored many aspects of it over the past two decades, enriching the understanding of researchers and practitioners. The author specifically examined the relationship between scientific discussions, scientific literacy, language representations, learnable communication, and cooperative behavior patterns – continuously comparing scientific results with theoretical and practical discoveries of cooperative learning.
This book approaches learning interactions from inquiry-based science education, scientific literacy, and knowledge dissemination. The author's creative strategy, which is extremely rich, complex, and offers connections in a thousand threads, can also be tracked in this volume. The logical arc of the book consists of the most important scientific insights along which one can link step by step the theoretical approaches of inquiry-based science education with the actual practice of implementation.
· The inquiry-based approach does not teach about science but follows the path of learning by doing science. Doing sciences requires identifying elements of scientific investigations and knowledge. So that mobilizing and developing these elements can be at the heart of the learning process.
· Scientific knowledge is a social construction. All the elements of scientific literacy best improved in interactive, dialogic learning - in a cooperatively structured small group or/and peer discussion.
· Exploring scientific knowledge based on multiple representations allows incorporating essential stages such as reciprocal or re-constructive phases into the learning process, vital to the loathing of deep and long-term understanding.
· The elements of scientific competency or literacy can be particularly well integrated into the learning process through interactions, dialogues, learning instructions, or exercises based on the discussion of what learners understood.
· Cooperative learning is how anyone can structure all the recognitions above built into the learning and teaching process.
· The evaluation focuses on the students' learning outcomes in an inquiry-based approach. However, this could happen in a criteria-oriented system where learners and teachers examine their knowledge constructions based on various complex taxonomies (e.g., Bloom, SOLO). This evaluation also covers personal, social, emotional, and communication competencies.
The volume links these insights breaking down them into six chapters.
1st chapter: Inquiry-based science
During the introduction of the inquiry-based approach, the author also presents the above logical arc, predicting the narrative path of the entire book. She gathers the essential competence elements of scientific investigation. She explains the attitudes teachers should embrace to understand the dynamism in this approach. She also provides additional general features and conditions required for the process. She highlights the importance of language representation, further leading by emphasizing interaction, dialogical learning, and teaching, such as asking questions. In this chapter, Bybee’s 5Es model is introduced, which readers can explore in details of the practice - in the form of a case study. The five E-s are the next: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation. At the end of the chapter, the author points out that in cooperatively structured learning processes, the competence elements to be acquired are available to each student, leading to deep, deeply ingrained knowledge in the sciences.
2nd chapter: Visual, embodied, and language representations in teaching inquiry-based science – A case study
In the second chapter, in the context of multiple representations, she discusses the example in which the 5Es model formed the basis of inquiry-based learning and teaching practice. Gillies presents the role of visual, embodied, and language representations in learning interactions. The author shows how to master the elements of scientific literacy through structured interactions. We can also understand that evaluating the students' observable behavior, language, and acting performances is worth assessing the learning process's cognitive benefits.
3rd chapter: Developing scientific literacy
In the third chapter, scientific literacy takes center stage. How can each student achieve a higher level in the different competency elements of scientific literacy? Citing numerous approaches, Gillies highlights that teacher should target a broad and complex set of cognitive domains for achieving scientific literacy. She also points out how to use language tools in practice to raise the questions needed for scientific discourse. She presents Cognitive Acceleration, Accountable Talk, Exploratory Talk, and Philosophy for Children (P4C) models as examples of learning communication and scientific literacy as an investigation process. This chapter also mentions that partner-oriented, complementary, cooperative roles and cooperative learning structures, like in Elisabeth Cohen's revelations in cooperative learning, are the most effective tools for enhancing deeper understanding through teaching all the competence elements of scientific literacy.
4th chapter: Promoting scientific discourse
The next chapter is about promoting scientific discourse. Gillies argues that the teacher could play a key role in creating scientific discourse in inquiry-based science education. To understand this, she discusses how a teacher can develop academic discourse in his/her class following dialogical teaching. The author presents five principles, six rules, 16 observable changes in student behavior towards scientific literacy. She explains a 15-element practical strategy for teachers. She recommends developing a 7-element repertoire for students and developing critical thinking.
5th chapter: Structuring cooperative learning to promote social and academic learning
It has also emerged from previous chapters that Gillies’ frame of thought is cooperative learning. This chapter describes how the proven results of cooperative learning over the last fifty years meet the criteria listed in the previous four chapters. It demonstrates why a cooperative learning structure can be the best framework for implementing inquiry-based science education. This chapter follows David and Roger Johnson’s Learning Together model. Explains the scientific findings that mobilize and develop the cognitive, personal, and social areas that also form elements of scientific literacy. Thus, in the framework of the cooperative learning discourse, teachers can structurally guarantee that each student can participate effectively in scientific discourse and the development of scientific literacy. This chapter presents the five key elements of the model and five strategies for developing cooperative processes. The author has always offered examples of evaluating in the previous chapters. This chapter devotes more space to the issue of evaluation. It demonstrates how to use cooperative learning to implement a formative assessment of how the teacher and student community learn. It also sensibly illustrates how to perform a summative, criteria-oriented assessment in cooperative learning settings – presenting a series of 7 and 4 criteria to the reader.
6th chapter: The Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) taxonomy: assessing students’ reasoning, problem-solving, and learning
In this chapter, the author focuses on evaluation, an essential element of inquiry-based science education. She provided the reader with a solid framework for understanding this field. She used the 5Es model to illustrate the inquiry-based science education process's design, conduct, and monitoring. She uses the SOLO taxonomy to demonstrate how to evaluate cognitive performance, building on students' learning outcomes. This model distinguishes five observable performance levels from the pre-structural level to the extended abstract level. Through practical examples and catches, refers to the effectiveness of the approaches, models, and procedures set out in the previous chapters at different levels of the SOLO taxonomy.
The author also teaches her subject by editing the volume! It means that the volume's editorial principles and visual and linguistic representations use the principles and process models to deepen the reader's understanding.
Returning chapter structures
The volume consists of six semi-structured chapters. The structure of the chapters is as follows:
5. additional literature
This editing structure allows the reader to go through the steps of inquiry-based learning. The introduction engages the reader with its promises, promising results, and questions about expected outcomes. The background allows the reader to link the context of the chapter with his prior knowledge. Where the background title is not mentioned, it clarifies the theoretical framework of the given chapter already with the title (Chapter2 Types of representations, Chapter4: Dialogic Teaching, Chapter5: Cooperative learning, Chapter6: The SOLO taxonomy). The background chapters allow the reader to explore this area and then read about the relevant approaches, models, and results cited in abundance. The subthemes already help the reader understand their approaches, which is valid in practice. Concrete examples, theoretical frameworks, guides, and the still abundantly available, usable literature background help the reader to elaborate on their practice. The summary provides an opportunity for the reader to compare and evaluate elements of their understanding. While immediately introducing this structure, the first chapter also goes through the logical arc of the whole book – helping readers to gain a predictable overview about the topic.
Cycles of understanding encoded in different chapters of the book
The chapters also follow inquiry-based science education suggestions, such as the 5Es model. In this model, they modeled the process through which it is worth going through the learning process if someone wants to achieve higher academic performance, a higher level of scientific literacy in their class. The five steps are engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, evaluation. The first chapter makes the topic and logical arc of the entire book complexly attractive – thus engaging the reader. It opens quite widely reference dimensions, allowing readers to get involved in reading the volume on several threads. The second chapter explores the complexity it brings in practice in the form of a case study, following a single inquiry-based model. The third chapter allows us to understand what is explained by scientific literacy, which is designated as a complex area of linguistic representation. Thus, it provides clear explanations and examples of how to imagine the development of scientific literacy in practice – giving specific practical criteria for the elements of scientific literacy. The fourth chapter provides a handhold in dialogue issues for inquiry-based education. It puts on the horizon of understanding the dialogical teaching approach for elaboration of the learning and teaching practice. This chapter also presents strategic recommendations to be followed in practice for both teachers and learners. As in chapter five, based on the Johnson brothers’ Learning Together model, the reader can elaborate on the structures of the learning-teaching process for inquiry-based science education. The elements set out in the previous chapters all appear, and for each student in cooperatively structured learning processes. Thus, following the cooperative paradigm makes it possible to develop scientific discourse and improve scientific literacy, as presented in the previous chapters! Chapter six provides the reader with a criteria-oriented model for understanding the evaluation during an inquiry-based science learning process.
To summarize the functions of each chapter, we can see how the editing of the book follows the process principles of inquiry-based science education:
Chapter 1 Engagement – providing full access to the broad horizon of understanding for the reader to find their personally engaging link to the topic of the inquiry-based approach.
Chapter 2 Exploration – what she presented in the introductory chapter also shows through a case study! Through highlighting the critical role of visual, embodied, and language representations in the inquiry-based learning process, this chapter opens many ways to explore more.
Chapter 3 Explanation – using the conceptual framework of scientific literacy, this chapter presents scientific language representations in a complex way. This chapter explains how to adapt the cognitive domains and science learning discussions in learning interactions and language performances to reach higher scientific representations, such as the SOLO taxonomy.
Chapter 4 Elaboration – highlights the role of the teacher in developing the scientific learning discourse needed to develop scientific competency. Using a specific conceptual framework of dialogical teaching helps identify principles, rules, and expected and observable behaviors for practical development. She recommends strategies, tools, and behavioral repertoires for both teachers and students for practical application.
Chapter 5 Elaboration - indicates that the half-century-old discourse on cooperative learning obtains the results that the literature expects from inquiry-based science education. Thus, the discourse of cooperative learning provides a conceptual and practical framework for the realization of inquiry-based learning built on persuasive evidence. This chapter also presents several elements, strategies, and ready-to-use tools for developing the practice.
Chapter 6 Evaluation – for understanding evaluation, already has presented practical examples during the chapters of the elaboration. It links the criterion-oriented scientific literacy model to practice and simultaneously gives a possible conceptual framework for evaluation.
Multiple visual and language representations for deeper understanding
Not only does Gillies provide a more structured language representation for the reader by editing each chapter and the whole volume, but she also shares visual organizers that can be used immediately in practice – on the subject of each chapter. As the author, she uses a broad repertoire of linguistic representations for helping readers' understanding - as she recommends using multiple representations for the inquiry-based science learning process. She works with a sharpest possible repertoire: explanatory texts, literal question patterns, question forms, aspect repertoires, criteria lists, specific language vignettes are presented to the readers by any chapter they wish to study. It allows the reader to get engaged, explore, understand, elaborate their practice, and evaluate inquiry-based science education according to scientifically based criteria.
Inquiry-based science education - at the heart of the cooperative discourse
From the cooperative learning discourse aspect, the author wrote this book from the heart of cooperative learning for the discourse of science teaching! The focus of inquiry-based science teaching was always in the middle of the investigation and practice of the cooperative discourse. Anyone can easily recognize how deeply all the aspects and practical elements of inquiry-based science education are deeply rooted in the heart of the more than 50-year-old cooperative learning discourse itself.