University of Minnesota Extension
http://www.extension.umn.edu/
612-624-1222
Menu Menu

Extension > Driven to Discover Citizen Science: Provoking authentic inquiry


Welcome to another summer of the D2D eZine! Please use this as a resource to work with the other Driven to Discover Citizen Science teams! This summer we will have fewer issues - only one each month on the last Friday of the month. Each issue will have tips, updates, links and more to help your summer run smoothly. We love to share stories from our participants too, so please send us some pictures, video links, stories, and any questions or comments you may have. Other teams are a great resource too, especially if you are faced with a challenge you're not quite sure how to conquer. Reach out to your peers! They will have plenty to offer.

We hope you have a wonderful summer of citizen science and authentic science inquiry - remember we are here for you!


monarch.jpgIn June 2013 I wrote an article for this eZine that said "MLMP volunteers all over the U.S. and Canada are seeing very few, if any, monarch adults, eggs, or caterpillars this summer." This year, I'm happy to report that the news is better. While the overwintering population last winter was smaller than ever, and we had low reports out of the south, MLMP volunteers in the upper midwestern U.S. are reporting monarch eggs, larvae and adults. The numbers are lower than average, but still seem to suggest that the population may be rebounding. I'm cautiously optimistic, and send out a sigh of relief and a big "Hurray"! We hope that you're seeing monarchs and other interesting things in your milkweed patches, and that you realize how valuable your data are. Please be sure to report your findings, and check out the data from other MLMP sites throughout the U.S.! Let us know if you have any questions about collecting or reporting data.

While it's hard to find monarch "J's" and pupae in the wild, MLMP volunteer Patti Keiper sent in the above picture of a monarch that was discovered near the Rockford Road Library in Crystal, Minnesota in summer 2012. Unfortunately, a lawn service was about to spray and weed whip baby milkweed plants off the cedar chip bed it was in, but library staff rescued the plant and the monarch, as well as other larvae in the bed.

Karen Oberhauser

University of Minnesota Monarch Lab


"What's in a question, you ask? question-mark-graphic.jpgEverything. It is a way of evoking stimulating response or stultifying inquiry. It is, in essence, the very core of teaching."

- John Dewey, education philosopher.

Experienced leaders use and create a variety of good questions throughout the summer to propel their team members into the inquiry flow. According to a summary of research by Patricia E. Blosser, questions serve a variety of important roles in effective science education:

  • Provoking interest in a topic or idea;
  • Stimulating thinking about information and issues;
  • Helping learners develop a certain mind-set;
  • Reinforcing information and ideas; and
  • Managing activities and learner behavior.
Try to ask open-ended and thought-provoking questions that serve a specific purpose.

An educator may ask learners hundreds of questions in the course of teaching. But studies consistently find that they predominately ask learners closed-ended, low-order questions - questions that require learners to recall memorized correct answers. You can improve your teaching by asking more focused, open-ended, and thought-provoking questions. Try the following with youth on your research teams:

  1. Focus your questions. Keep in mind the authentic inquiry process at the heart of D2D: observing and wondering, sparking provocative questions, formulating hypotheses and investigation, analyzing results and generating conclusions. Where are your team members in their inquiry process? Where will they flow next? Use questions to propel them there.
  2. Know why you are asking each and every question. Will your question provoke learners' interest in what comes next? Will it reinforce key ideas or skills? Will it encourage youth members to further analyze or synthesize the topic? Visit the Questioning Toolkit in the From Now On journal for examples of questions that serve a variety of important purposes.
  3. Make sure your questions target a variety of learning-levels. Do you ask your team members to demonstrate, construct, calculate, diagram, or predict? Bloom's Taxonomy defines six different levels of intellectual behavior, each with "action verbs" you can use in writing questions for team meetings. Low-order questions ask learners to recall information or reproduce skills from memory. "Who can show me the first step in properly filling in our data sheet?" exemplifies a low-order question. High-order questions prompt learners to interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply ideas and skills in new situations. "How did you decide that this is the best way to graph your data?" or "What are the strengths and weaknesses of this study design to compare bird species in our wetland and prairie sites?" are both high-order questions. Low-order questions are great for reinforcing ideas or managing activities. High-order questions are usually better suited to provoke or stimulate critical thinking, and help youth make connections.
  4. Make sure your questions have an appropriate structure. Open-ended questions are broad in nature with many potential and varied answers. E.g. "How could you design a form to collect information about tachnid wasps at our site? What about spiders?" Alternatively, closed-ended questions are limited to one or a few specific "correct" answers. E.g. "Who can tell me if this is a robin call?" Closed-ended questions are good for reinforcing information and ideas, stimulating recall, or managing activities. Open-ended questions serve well to provoke and stimulate critical thinking.
Many resources describe how to deliver questions effectively. Developing Questioning Skills by Karron Lewis offers practical suggestions. Above all, encourage students to risk answering your questions. Say things like "I am looking for an adventurous person to tackle this question..." or "Can someone take a shot at answering this question?" Let your team members know when you don't expect them to know a predetermined answer but are seeking thoughtful guesses or reflections. And, of course, resist the urge to answer your own questions. Instead, allow at least a few seconds for youth to think about your question before rephrasing.


Well planned and delivered questions will help you keep your team members in the flow of inquiry. In the words of Cathleen Galas: "A good question leads to more new questions, new discoveries, new realms never even considered before....Teachers should share the excitement of asking questions and finding answers to personally relevant questions."

Nathan Meyer

Center for Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota Extension

This article was adapted from the EE E-Tip for Field Days.
References:

Bloom, B. et al. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook 1. Cognitive Domain. New York: D. McKay.

Blosser, P.E. (1990). Using questions in science classrooms. Research Matters - To the Science Teacher, No. 9001. Online at http://www.narst.org/publications/research/question.cfm.

Galas, C. (1999). The never ending story: Questioning strategies for the information age. Learning and Leading, 25(7).

Lewis, K.G. (1999). Developing questioning skills. Section 5. Teachers and Students: A Sourcebook for UT-Austin Faculty. The University of Texas at Austin Center for Teaching Effectiveness. Online at http://ncnewschools.org/uploads/library/0807-questioning-article.pdf.

McComas, W.F., & Abraham, L. (n.d.). Asking More Effective Questions. Online at http://cet.usc.edu/resources/teaching_learning/docs/Asking_Better_Questions.pdf.

N.A. (1997). A questioning toolkit. From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal, 7(3). Online at http://www.fno.org/nov97/toolkit.html.


We love seeing pictures of your research team in action! We especially want to see candid moments, where team members are engaged in interaction or tasks at hand. They might be seemingly unaware of the camera or perhaps glancing at it, but most importantly they're captured "in the moment," authentic -- not posed. Also, think about lighting when you're snapping away. Put the sun at the photographer's back and try to avoid deep shadows on the subject matter. These photos are fun to see, and also help us when it comes time to develop presentations and reports about the project. E-mail pictures to Katie-Lyn Bunney at kbunney@umn.edu.

  • © 2014 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy