The main purpose of this action research study is to show an increase in the level of autonomy awareness of a group of fourth-grade students by means of implementing an inquiry-based learning unit about the systems of the human body in the current science program. Some specific objectives of the study include making learners more aware of their learning goals and the content of the science materials that they use by means of a student-centered methodology rather than a teacher-centered one; getting students to inquire more than they are used to about science topics and making learners more aware of their own preferred learning styles.
My intention with this action research project is to contribute to the field of teaching and learning science in English, since this study will shed light about important issues related to how the level of autonomy awareness can be increased by means of applying an inquiry-based learning approach to science rather than a traditional teacher-centered methodology. What is expected from this action research project is that students demonstrate an increased level of their autonomy awareness by showing more awareness of their learning goals and the content of the science materials that they use (Nunan, 1997); by fostering inquiry, which implies involvement in activities that lead to understanding, since involvement in learning implies developing skills and attitudes that permit students to seek resolutions to questions and issues while they construct new knowledge (Exline, 2008); and by being able to identify better their own preferred learning styles.
The implementation of an inquiry-based learning unit full of inquiry activities related to the systems of the human body will give students the opportunity to ask more questions, to discover scientific knowledge themselves, and to communicate more with other peers and the teacher, thus increasing their autonomy awareness (Sheerin, 1997) as well as developing their thinking skills while learning science in their second language within a student-centered classroom atmosphere.
This study is relevant for the students, because it will help them improve in terms of learner autonomy. Learning to be autonomous is one of the most important objectives students must accomplish nowadays because the development of this skill makes them able to make decisions in an independent way after analyzing many possibilities, and because it is very helpful for students to be successful in any project or task they have to face in their daily lives (Luke, 2006).
This action research project is also pertinent for the educational institution for which I work, because it will lead teachers of the science department to reflect on the importance of including inquiry-based science activities in the units of the current science program to help students become more autonomous while developing critical thinking skills.
Students who use inquiry to learn science engage in many of the same activities and thinking processes as scientists who are seeking to expand human knowledge of the natural world. The activities and thinking processes used by scientists will become more familiar to the educators seeking to introduce inquiry into their science classrooms. Both students and teachers will be able to use inquiry to learn how to do science, learn about the nature of science, and learn science content (Olson, 2000).