Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Documentation in Inquiry Science

As teachers, you are probably documenting your students' learning everyday as part of both your learning and your assessment goals. In inquiry science learning, both teachers and students document the learning process. By documenting observations, children can begin to "think like scientists". They learn how to stop and observe the world around them, to reflect on what they are learning, and to ask questions. Documents offer students a visual of what they have been discovering - which is very helpful for our concrete learners!  
 

This student is drawing her favorite part of the story. She said, "I liked the part when Moon Bear tried to put his shadow down in a hold and cover him up!"

Students and Teachers can document in a number of ways:

  • Taking digital photographs. The teacher OR the students can try this! Students love to see themselves in pictures and will become extremely engaged.

  • Creating a chart. Teachers can create a chart for students to fill in, or they can write out a chart together.

  • Drawing pictures. Pictures are an excellent way to document learning in science. It gives young children the opportunity to practice representational drawing and focus. Teachers can validate their ideas by reviewing their pictures and posting them in the classroom.

  • Creating a Science Journal. You can create one Science Journal for your entire class that everyone can add to throughout the year, or each child can have his or her own journal to write or draw in each day.

  • Taking a video. Video is an excellent way to reflect on learning. Imagine the excitement that your students will experience when they see themselves on video!

Students and Teachers can USE their documents in a number of ways:

  • Communicating ideas and discoveries to promote students to compare, contrast, formulate theories and draw conclusions

  • Focusing on science concepts

  • Building a culture of collaboration in your classroom in which students become inspired to investigate both individually and as a team

  • Connecting students' explorations from one day to the next, deepening their inquiry over time

  • Reviewing what has been learned at key points in an exploration

  • Including them in portfolio assessment (This is for teachers only!) 

 

This teacher took photos at different times of day of their sundial. She then placed the photos in sequential order — like a clock. This is a great introduction for students to see how the sun changes position in the sky at different times of day. They can see this in the way the shadow moves!