Inquiry is the cornerstone of the Science curriculum, but teachers may have problems trying to implement it. Here’s a handy way to plan Science inquiry-based lessons and impart the spirit of inquiry at the same time.
“Inquiry is a big area – there are several models and interpretations,” says NIE Lecturer Dr Tan Kok Siang. Many teachers find it difficult to implement.
“They think it’s quite broad and they’re not too sure whether they are doing the right thing or not.”
Kok Siang came up with a pedagogical framework to help teachers plan Science inquiry lessons effectively. It all began when he was asked to do an in-service course for teachers. This prompted him to reflect on his own teaching experiences.
“I thought of the four very important steps I did when I was a school teacher. After going through these four steps, I found the letters N, E, M, O, and the movie Finding Nemo came to mind!”
Finding N.E.M.O. wasn’t what Kok Siang set out to do. “N.E.M.O. encapsulates the gist of what a good lesson is,” he says. “I’ve been doing this all my professional life as a teacher, but never thought of it in terms of N.E.M.O.”
With such a catchy acronym, teachers will also remember better what they must do before, during and after class.
What is N.E.M.O.?
N.E.M.O. represents a four-step procedure to plan a good inquiry-based Science lesson.
- Needs. Before the lesson begins, you must know the learning needs of your students as well as the needs of the syllabus. “All the needs must be clearly thought through first,” says Kok Siang.
- Expectations. Teacher expectations strongly influence student performance, so let your students know the learning goals you’ve set. “Needs and expectations are very important in a good lesson plan. Without these two things, you’re shooting in the dark.”
- Manage. For maximum learning, you need to manage the students, the learning activities and the time spent on each. “Don’t spend all the time managing behaviours, neither all the time teaching. You have to manage the lesson so that there’s optimum learning and optimum use of resources.”
- Outcomes.It is important to reflect on the learning outcomes but be open to how they align with your expectations. “If you want to have a very impactful lesson, you need to have a feedback loop. You need to know what you’ve done and evaluate whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad, strong or weak, and then you make improvements.”The significance of Kok Siang’s framework isn’t so much in what teachers should do, but the need to be aware of how the lesson is conducted.
Valuable Life Lessons
– Tan Kok Siang, Natural Sciences and Science Education Academic Group
Apart from Science lessons on inquiry, Kok Siang has also gleaned many other life lessons from the movie Finding Nemo. He has even found use for his N.E.M.O. framework in his daily life.
“It’s a very useful four steps not just in classroom lessons, but it’s also good for reflection in real life, whether it’s projects or personal relationships. It’s easy to remember and effective to implement,” he says.
Perhaps you’ll find N.E.M.O. useful for your teaching and learning, too! “It has gotten into my life quite naturally. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Note: Permission for the use of “NEMO” was given by Fun Characters Pte Ltd, the Licensee for Disney/Pixar.