Teachers bring ‘inquiry teaching’ to Natchez-Adams School District

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Anne McMullen views herself and a group of fellow teachers as missionaries spreading the word on a different approach to teaching.

&uot;We’re bringing this concept to teachers that might not like it,&uot; she said.

McMullen teaches chemistry and advanced placement biology at Natchez High School.

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She was one of three teachers in the Fourth Congressional District selected for a grant program awarded to the University of Southern Mississippi through the National Science Foundation.

The program teaches professors and teachers how to make physical science more interactive so they can pass that knowledge along to other teachers.

The idea behind the program is &uot;inquiry teaching&uot; and focuses on the use of common experiences, McMullen said.

For example, students may create a measuring system of their own as part of a study on the metric system, she said.

&uot;(The study is) going to mean more to you because you’re going to bring the common experience of having made your own measuring device,&uot; McMullen said.

The program focuses on teachers on the seventh to ninth-grade level that often teach physical science, McMullen said.

The idea is to get away from a lecturing style of teaching and for teachers to act more like classroom facilitators.

&uot;You learn a lot more by doing things … than hearing somebody talk about them,&uot; McMullen said.

Students should be motivated to ask the questions and to engage in what McMullen calls &uot;science noise&uot; in the classroom.

In general, teachers like students to stay in their seats and listen during class but that’s not true with this type of teaching, McMullen said.

&uot;They’re not going stay in their chairs, and they’re not going to be quiet. Discovery is a noisy thing,&uot; McMullen said. &uot;It’s going to be noisy but you’re going to have to regulate it to make it science noise.&uot;

That discovery is essential to the learning process, McMullen said.

&uot;That’s what the inquiry method means – let them find out for themselves,&uot; McMullen said. When it comes to learning &uot;sometimes an experiment that doesn’t work is just as good as one that does.&uot;

Several USM professors, Emory Howell, John Bedenbaugh, Angela Bedenbaugh and Iva Brown applied for the grant to fund the program.

McMullen just returned from her first two weeks of training at USM. She will go back to the college for a week in July to teach other teachers what she has learned.

She will also go through further training in the upcoming summers.

Once McMullen completes her training, she will be considered a consultant for the National Science Foundation in this type of instruction.