Re-Thinking Tasks in Inclusive Science Education
New Approaches to Enable Participation
Background: Tasks constitute a crucial element of learning environments as they prompt students to engage with the learning content. Among others, doing science, particularly conducting experiments, includes very specific task formats and activities which focus strongly on writing, reading, mathematical, and fine-motoric skills. In order to enable all students to participate in science education, these task formats need to be re-designed, since they present barriers for many learners or even exclude some completely (Stinken-Rösner & Abels, 2021).
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate different approaches to design ‘inclusive’ tasks that allow all students to participate in investigating the ‘Flaschentuten’ phenomenon. Acoustics is an essential part of physics education, which is not only challenging for hearing-impaired students. Due to its complexity and high level of abstraction, acoustics is a barrier-loaden topic for many learners. We show how students can engage with the same context on different levels of abstraction, depending on their individual previous experiences and needs and how various scaffolding offers can support individual and mutual learning.
Sample/Setting: The ‘Flaschentuten’ context is used in the course of an introductory seminar on inquiry-based learning. Over the last three years, more than 100 pre-service teachers investigated the ‘Flaschentuten’ phenomenon. None of the participants were enrolled in physics study programs at university level. Some already had experience with the context, but none was able to explain the phenomenon scientifically.
Design and Methods: In order to enable participation for all learners, typical tasks connected to doing science were re-designed following the Framework for Inclusive Science Education (Brauns & Abels, 2021). We chose the context “Flaschentuten”, since learners can engage practically with this phenomenon even with no to little knowledge about the underlying scientific content. Additionally, various scaffolding offers (e.g., material, linguistic, cognitive, and communicational) as well as different types of digital media were implemented. Following the design-based research approach, the learning environment was continuously further developed and tasks re-designed in accordance to our observations (and to allow distance learning during COVID-19).
Results: The observations on how learners engage with the context ‘Flaschentuten’ and the inclusively designed tasks are based on three years of experiences. The context ‘Flaschentuten’ proved to foster students’ situational interest. Typically occurring research questions relate to the characteristics of the bottle, the filling level, the filling material and to the way the bottle is 'played'. The complexity of the corresponding experimental setup and the acquisition of measurements varied depending on students’ previous experiences, knowledge and skills. Also, students made use of the re-designed tasks which allowed for new approaches. In particular, the digital media offers (measurement app and digital documentation in form of audios/pictures/videos) were very popular among learners.
Conclusions: In conclusion, the experiences made with the context ‘Flaschentuten’ show that re-thinking tasks from the perspective of inclusive science education can result in learning environments that enable participation for all learners. Applying frameworks, such as the Framework for Inclusive Science Education (Brauns & Abels, 2021), can help teachers to identify potential barriers of contexts, tasks and materials as well as to provide alternative approaches that are compatible with the requirements of inclusive science education.
Keywords: Inclusion, Inclusive Science Education, Participation, Task Design, Digital Media
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