The Duckworth Approach

Eleanor Duckworth is a firm believer in “the having of wonderful ideas.” You may be wondering, what classifies as a wonderful idea? She describes the very essence of wonderful ideas as the ability to surprise others by your idea and show them what you can do with it.

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One of the major focuses of Duckworth’s writings is that every human has difficulty accepting something that they do not fully understand or that goes against their beliefs. To combat this, Duckworth encourages educators to allow room for students to ask their own questions and explore every possibility of a situation to come up with their own explanation.

For example, a common misconception in science classrooms is that there is a dark side of the moon. In order to allow students to investigate this phenomenon, you could set up a demonstration for them with a lamp and a model sun and moon and allow them to see for themselves what happens as the moon rotates and orbits.

This is a video that shows very well how you could set up this type of experiment.

Duckworth also says that not knowing is far more valuable than knowing. What she means by this is that when a student doesn’t know the answer to something, it provides a learning opportunity. It provides a space for the teacher to allow the student to ask questions and explore. Duckworth argues that teachers are rarely encouraged to provoke students to ask their own questions and solve things for themselves. Rather, the teacher is pushed to teach to the test and tell the student the right answer without allowing for exploration.

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This approach to learning connects with the Next Generation Science Standards very smoothly. One part of the NGSS is Science and Engineering Practices. This allows for students to utilize inquiry and investigate the natural world. The moon demo above and other demos like it would be a great example of inquiry for the students and would align with NGSS.

Another example of a way to allow students to investigate on their own would be to take misconceptions that might be portrayed in movies they have watched and to allow them to test them for themselves. For example, in the movie Wall-E, Twinkies are shown to have an endless shelf life and stay preserved forever. However, Twinkies actually only have a shelf life of about 45 days!

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Wall-E’s friend, the cockroach, dove deep inside of the Twinkie

You could allow your students to investigate this by allowing a Twinkie to sit out and record weekly observations. After a couple of months, the students will see that the Twinkie has gone bad. You can use this as an opportunity to dive into preservatives and the science behind the food we eat everyday!

When teaching in the classroom, it can be easy to fall into a habit of wanting the students to get the right answer and continue on with the lesson. However, allowing your students to explore incorrect answers and be curious about the world around them is the key to making science really stick in their minds.

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