Student engagement is an ongoing concern for most educators as disengaged students are passive, not actively engaged in constructing new knowledge. Students become engaged when the activity, not only captures their imagination, but also has relevance for them. Inquiry is one way of igniting the spark of interest in students which is essential to science learning. Educationally effective programs are those in which products are not emphasized, inquiry is sparked, open-ended questions are generated, and students actively participate and appear involved (Gutwill and Allen). The ultimate engagement is to put the learner in charge of learning, and inquiry learning does just that.
However, the learning needs to be anchored to something that is relevant to the learner in order for new knowledge to be constructed and retained for future retrieval. GLOBE researchers have suggested that GLOBE is an example of anchored instruction, and although this appears to be the case in that it is conducted in a realistic setting to respond to a realistic inquiry, the students themselves are only collecting and submitting the data, not analyzing it, looking for trends, or making conclusions about the significance of the data they are collecting. Penuel and Means (2004) note that “students are not just collecting data as part of an isolated laboratory experience but as contributors to actual scientific studies” (p. 296). I agree that the students are an integral part of the data collection but I disagree that the students are doing “real science investigations” (295) as they are not involved in using the data to discover its significance and do not take part in the actual scientific studies. Scientists use the student collected data in their own investigations (Penuel and Means, 296).
A key assumption is that students can collect scientifically useful data, however it must be collected in accordance with specific protocols and be reported consistently over time. (Penuel and Means, 296). This can be somewhat onerous for the students and some of the participants find submitting the data repetitive. Because the students are not involved with using the data, the relevance of the collection becomes remote, and the students lose interest because it becomes a chore, rather than an exciting inquiry into science. Students in these schools are not getting the realistic picture of the nature of scientific investigation that the authentic data collection is intended to provide (Penuel and Means, 309).
The GLOBE program provides learning activities that can be implemented by the teacher at the same time as the students are doing the data collection. The GLOBE philosophy is one of providing resources but leaving the decisions concerning curriculum and pedagogy up to the teachers because the teacher’s choices are not threats to the program’s scientific and educational goals (Penuel and Means. 297). This means that the learning material is disconnected from the actual scientific inquiry. Students and teachers could use the learning materials and the subsequent data collection to pose their own questions, collect their own data, analyze it, and formulate explanations, but this would be outside of the inquiry being done by the GLOBE scientists. If this were the case, then the program would be anchored instruction, but as it stands now, it is just a small part of a larger scientific inquiry being completed outside of the program.
Butler, D.M., & MacGregor, I.D. (2003). GLOBE: Science and education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(1), 9-20.
Kountoupes, Dina L., Oberhauser, Karen S., Citizen science and youth audiences: Educational outcomes of the monarch larva monitoring project. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, Vol 1, 1
Penuel, W.R., & Means, B. (2004). Implementation variation and fidelity in an inquiry science program: Analysis of GLOBE data reporting patterns. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(3), 294-315.