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Inquiry and the Teaching of Science


									Inquiry and the Teaching of Science

Becca Lane

Robertson (2007) has observed that most teachers think they must stress either inquiry -based,
hands-on learning or content-centered, direct instruction. It is when the two approaches are
combined, using the Learning Cycle (the 5 Es) that teaching and learning are most successful.

The 5 Es combine traditional teaching methods with inquiry-based learning. Robertson examined
research on the 5 Es to see if the order in which the phases are taught makes a difference in
teaching effectiveness. His research shows that presenting the “explain” portion of the cycle
before the “explore” portion of the cycle activates prior learning and better equips students for
the more inquiry focused “explore” portion of the cycle. When this occurs, inquiry-based teaching
is shown to be most effectiveness.

It is also noted in the article that a teacher’s knowledge of the content area is the primary
prediction of success in the classroom.

Robertson, B. (2007). Getting past “inquiry versus content.” Educational Leadership, 64(4), 67-

Brittany Derlath

Inquiry and the teaching of Science

Bransfield, P. Holt, P. & Nastasi, P. (1 January 2007). Coaching to Build Support for Inquiry -
Based Teaching. Science Scope , 30. Retrieved September 9, 2008, from http://0-

Inquiry in a science class can be a daunting task for many science teachers in the classroom.
Traditionally teachers would have the lecture solely teacher directed. Students would be answer
questions from textbooks and would not be doing a lot of hands on work. Students would be
passive learners at best. Teachers, when introduced to the new model, tended to fall back to the
old ways because it was what they know. Inquiry-based pedagogies would allow students to have
hands on experience by being exposed to theories and the practices of science. Their curiosity
would lead them to ask or research real life situations.

The town of teachers focused on in this article was given a series of science coaches. These
people came to be like assistants in the classroom. They offered advice and instruction to
teacher for potential lesson plans or activities. Through the years, coaches were considered
friends and allies in the classroom. The support from the coaches’ lead to the goal of full inquiry
based learning. The traditional methods of teaching slowly were defeated against t he inquiry-
based pedagogies.

Sarah Kuehne - Research Article 3: Inquiry-Based Science: Strategies and techniques
for encouraging inquiry in the classroom
Summary: This article is authored by a professor in the Department of Curriculum and
Instruction at the University of Houston, and as such, offers several techniques that have been
successfully used by science teachers. Science as inquiry stresses active student learning and the
importance of understanding a scientific concept by using the following techn iques: asking
questions, science process skills, discrepant events, inductive activities, deductive activities,
gathering information, and problem solving. The author gives meaningful descriptions and
examples of using these techniques in his article. These methods can all be used during the
teaching of science topics to help students understand fundamental science concepts.

Chiapetta, E. L. (1997). Inquiry-based science: strategies and techniques for encouraging inquiry
in the classroom. The Science Teacher, 64 (8). Retrieved September 14, 2008 , from


Winslow Clarke Inquiry and the Teaching of Science Haefner, L. A., & Zembal-Saul, C. (2004).
Learning by doing? prospective elementary teachers’ developing understandings of scientific
inquiry and science teaching and learning. International Journal of Science Education, 26(13) ,
1653-1674. It will not let me indent or italicize. Summary: This study had two questions, 1.
“What do prospective elementary teachers learn about scientific inquiry within the context of the
course? And 2. In what ways do their experiences engaging in science investigations and
teaching inquiry-oriented science influence prospective elementary teachers’ understanding of
science and science learning and teaching?” (Haefner & Zembal-Saul, 2004, p. 1653.) The
researchers developed a course where prospective elementary teachers were taught by extended
science investigations and the class meet the unique needs of elementary school teachers to
learn how to create an inquiry based science classroom. The researchers used pre and post
course interviews to collect data. The researchers found that “specifically developed science
content courses can assist prospective teachers’ in developing more appropriate understandings
of science” (Haefner & Zembal-Saul, 2004, p. 1670.) Scientific inquiry became apart of the
prospective teachers thoughts about elementary science. This college course also helped
prospective teachers confront their own views about science. It also started a movement toward
scientific inquiry in the elementary classroom.

Ashley Bullman

Oguz, A., Yurumezoglu, K. (2007). The Primacy of Observation in Inquiry-based Science
Education. Paper presented at the International Workshop: Science Education in School.
(Bucharest, Romania) 7pp.

(Would not let me indent)

This article discusses Inquiry-Based Science Instruction (IBSI). It looks at how important the
whole process of inquiry is and how the whole idea of observation in science inquiry is being
glossed over. The authors feel as though science inquiry needs to include more systematic
observations so that students will formulate more hypothesis and research questions. The
authors conducted a study of university students. One group of students were instructed to do
simple observations and were given blank sheets of paper to record their observations. The
second group was given a sheet of paper containing guidelines for their observations and were
instructed to use all five senses. The second group in turn provided more detailed observations,
more research questions and certain came up with their own hypothesis. The first set of students
made very simple observations without any furthur investigations. They tended to use only sight
when describing their observations. This study helps support the idea that observation needs to
be more in-depth in inquiry based science instruction.

Tina Donovan
Manley, J. (2008). Let’s fight for inquiry science. Science and Children, 45(8), 36-38.

Let’s Fight for Inquiry Science is an article by James Manley that focuses on the necessity to
maintain an inquiry based curriculum in the classroom. He argues that an inquiry based science
curriculum, which awakens students’ curiosity, may soon be replaced by mandated time -
consuming packaged programs.

Mr. Manley investigated the situation by attending assessment related workshops and by joining
the state superintendent’s teacher advisory council to listen to recognized teachers form across
the state. He found that the Arizona State Superintendent of instruction encourages all teachers
to teach science through inquiry, as defines by the state standards.

Mr. Manley encourages all teachers to have the conscience and courage to stand up to school
administrators and share what they know about the best pedagogical practices (inquiry) to fight
for the students’ right to learn about how our world works. He offers some ideas for maintaining
inquiry based learning in the classroom. Teachers should look for a school system that supports
inquiry learning, demonstrate that inquiry learning in science can improve test scores, attend a
science teaching conference from the National Science Teachers Association, integrate math
measurements concepts with science concepts, address reading standards through science texts,
and share classroom success stories with their school’s administration.

Dearborn McCorkle?: Inquiry and the Teaching of Science

Wang, H.A., Thompson, P., & Shuler, C.F. (1998). Essential Components of Problem -

Based Learning for the K-12 Inquiry Science Instruction. Retrieved September

28, 2008 from

This paper discusses the development of problem-based learning (PBL), its relationship to
inquiry-based science, and its implementation in the K-12 classroom. PBL was first developed in
1968 by a Canadian medical school. It has since been used extensively to train physicians. The
problem-based learning approach has since been adopted by the National Science Education
Standards. PBL has become a popular tool in K-12 classrooms, and is seen as “an effective
inquiry model for either multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary curricula.”

Problem-based science learning consists of three main components: learning prompts; student-
centered learning; and small group cooperative learning. The role of the teacher in PBL is
significantly downplayed from “information distributor,” which lends itself to the constructivist
approach to teaching. In PBL, students are given learning prompts aimed to engage the student
and ensure standards-based learning outcomes. The learning prompts can be garnered from
multiple sources and created around any topic. The goal of the learning prompt is not to lead
students to a concrete, right or wrong answer. Rather, students use the learning prompt as a
“vehicle” to gain problem-solving skills and content knowledge.

The purpose of student-centered learning is to allow the students to take a role, both as an
individual and a team member, to solve a problem. After reading their learning prompt, students
discuss what they already know, ideas they have to solve the problem, and what they need to
know in order to prove their hypotheses correct or not. Students then explore multiple outlets for
information (i.e. Internet, library, magazines and books, teachers or experts in the field, etc.),
as well as design experiments to test their ideas. Finally, the students discuss their findings and
finalize their reports. Working together in cooperative groups, the students each are given
individual responsibilities, such as researching a specific idea or topic, and then the job of
reporting back to the group. As such, students develop communication skills, a strong work
ethic, and a sense of both personal and group responsibility.
The role of the teacher throughout this process is to be a facilitator, which includes helping
students expand their thinking by asking open-ended questions, assisting students in framing
their thinking and making evidence-based inferences, and aiding students in developing critical
thinking skills while evaluating sources of information.

Overall, this paper does a nice job of explaining PBL and its relationship to inquiry -based learning
in the K-12 science classroom. It also includes a great diagram outlining the steps of the PBL
learning process. In addition, the paper provides a list of resources for teachers, as well as
different examples of elementary schools across the United States currently using both inquiry -
based and problem-based learning as a fundamental part of their curriculum.

Brooke Taylor

Barrow, L (2008).Facilitating designs for inquiry with the four-question strategy. Science
Activities. 45, 9-12.

The article I read is about the four question strategy of inquiry education. Due to the fact that
the National Science Education Standards see inquiry as an overarching goal of science
education, more priority has been given to it in recent years. According to NRC in 2000, all
students, regardless of grade level must engage in scientifically oriented questions, give priority
to evidence collected by students, enabling them to develop and evaluate them according to the
scientifically oriented question, formulate explanations of their evidence to address the
scientifically oriented question, connect explanations to scientific understanding, and
communicate and justify their proposed explanations. The article introduces a four question
model formed by Cothron, Giese, and Rezba(1996) to help students to meet these detailed
standards at any level. The general format is presented below:

1. What materials are readily available for conducting an experiment on (topic)?

2. How can I change the set of (topic) materials to affect action?

3. How does (topic) act?

4. How can I measure or describe the general response of (topic) change?

These questions seemed to me a bit generic, and would need to be narrowed down by teacher
according to grade level and experiment. The figures in this article show the results of one such
experiment, and are helpful in promoting inquiry in the science classroom.

Lisa Reagan

Inquiry and the Teaching of Science Article:

Varelas, M., Plotnick, R., Wink, D., Fan, Q., & Harris, Y. (2008, May 1). Inquiry and Connections
in Integrated Science Content Courses for Elementary Education Majors. Journal of College
Science Teaching, 37(5), 40-47. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ794433) Retrieved
September 28, 2008, from ERIC database.

(Would not allow me to indent)
This article found that elementary teacher feel less qualified to teach science than any of the
other subjects that they are required to teach. The study found that on a typical day 30% of K -4
students have no science instruction at all. To solve this problem they have made each
Elementary education major to complete a series of science courses the focus on the students
understanding and construction of knowledge. Students will use PowerPoint? with specific
guidelines to present their project-based projects to their classes. By the end of these courses,
the students feel as though they are more capable of explaining the basic knowledge of science
and feel more comfortable teaching the concepts in elementary schools.

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Kelly Hanna

Flick, L. (1990). Affecting preservice elementary teachers' attitudes toward inquiry teaching in
science through projects with individual children. Atlanta, GA: National Association for Research
in Science Teaching. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED319596).

The purpose of the study that I read was to improve students' attitudes toward learning science
and inquiry-based science teaching. They were trying to improve attitudes through specially
designed instruction in science methods courses. The teachers involved conducted an inquiry -
oriented project with one child for the duration of a science course. The teachers analyzed the
children's thinking about science as well as variables affecting inquiry science teaching. This
study was looking at inquiry into science concepts and inquiry into the child's ideas. The study
used two out of eight sub-scales that are obtained in TOSRA ( Attitudes toward science inquiry
and adoption of scientific attitudes). The Scientific-inquiry sub-scale contains statements about
experimenting and sharing results to learn more about the world. The study shows that positive
attitudes toward inquiry teaching can be maintained and improved through topics in both the
natural and social sciences. Attitudes toward scientific inquiry increased by a little over three
points for females but there was no increase in male attitudes.

Kelly Bowers

Glynn, S.M., & Winter, L.K. (2004). Contextual teaching and learning of science in elementary
schools. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 16(2), 51-64.

In this research article, two university researchers studied twenty-one elementary school
teachers in their classrooms using case study methodologies to determine the benefits and
possible drawbacks of contextual teaching and learning strategies in science. The contextual
teaching and learning (CTL) approach to teaching science is based on constructivist principles
and uses inquiry as a main component for instruction. The authors of this article use three
representative individual cases to show how the use of inquiry based learning, as well as other
CTL strategies, improved students understanding of natural world phenomena; especia lly those
from diverse backgrounds. The study showed that in order for students to gain maximum
benefits from this approach, teachers need to act in collaboration with students during the
learning process, and the activity level of the lesson should be act ive and hands-on. Also,
teachers should discourage rote memorization by using stimulating questions that will foster
student inquiry and promote higher order thinking.

Justin Williams

Morrison, J., & Young, T. (2008, Summer2008). Using Science Trade Books to Support Inquiry in
the Elementary Classroom. Childhood Education, 84(4), 204-208. Retrieved September 29, 2008,
from Academic Search Premier database.
This is an interesting article that outlines the importance of inquiry based investigations in the
elementary classroom. The author notes that in many cases true inquiry is not taking place in the
classroom because most “hands-on” experiments are simply “recipes” for the students to follow,
going so far as to even include what questions a student should pose. This, the author argues, is
not inquiry. Inquiry should include: exploration leading to questions about the natural world,
investigations producing data, explanations based on the data, evaluation of the explanations,
and communications of the whole process. Imagination is what is missing from the inquiry
process; students need to be able to investigate a phenomenon and use all their creative skills to
arrive at an appropriate conclusion.

This author suggests that science based trade books are a good tool for the science teachers to
use to help foster inquiry. Trade books can help refine and focus an investigation, provide
context for students’ ideas about the topic, and supports students with minimal background

In this article there are also two different grade level inquiry based experiments that foster
genuine inquiry skills.

Julie Nilges

Godbey, S., Barnett, J., & Webster, L. (2005). Electrifying inquiry. Science activities: classroom
projects and curriculum ideas, 42(3). Retrieved September 29, 2008, from http://0-

This article presents the results of a study conducted by the Inquiry-Based Science and
Mathematics in Appalachian Middle Schools Project that compares the results of two similar
lessons on electrical circuits. One of the lessons was taught in a traditional ma nner which began
with a teacher demonstration then had students construct a parallel circuit according to step by
step instructions. The other lesson used an inquiry-based method in which the students were
given the same demonstration then told to simply experiment with the materials to investigate
circuits. Since the test sample was small and standard deviations for the outcomes of student
work were high, the authors concluded that the learning outcomes were the same for each group
of students. However, the engagement and interest for the inquiry-based group were much
higher than for the traditional lesson group, which is what the program is trying to achieve.

Emily Cummings

Joseph, R., & Brooks, J. (2008, June 1). Simple problems and integrated technology: making
connections beyond the curriculum. TechTrends?: Linking Research and Practice to Improve
Learning, 52(3), 60-63. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from ERIC database.

The article, Making Connections Beyond the Curriculum, is an article about the importance of
understanding how a student learns during an inquiry based science lesson. As the article
quotes, “The children’s own thinking and interaction brought them to use and develop their
expressive language, mathematical reasoning, and technological skills into the problem -solving
task in which they were engaged.” The article illustrates the process of third graders learning
based on inquiry through hands-on learning and technology. They were able to use these
techniques to test their own questions and hypothesis and form new theories. Not only did the
students learn about science, but also provided other learning opportunities in other subjects like
math and language arts. With the importance in how each child learns, it allows the students to
learn through inquiry and also through peer-based inquiry.

Kara MacDougall?
The article “Inquiry: Does it Favor the Prepared Mind?” is a very brief overview of the ongoing
debate between traditional lecturing styles and inquiry based learning in science. There have
been studies done to support either side.

While inquiry has become a common science teaching method for developing students’ higher
order thinking skills along with scientific concepts, little research has been conducted to study
intellectual development in students' capacity to learn profitably in an inquiry environment.

Just as there are those who support inquiry based learning there are those who are opposed.
There are studies that suggest that sometimes traditional approaches are more effective.

I like how they state it in the last sentence, “Before consigning “conventional” direct -instruction
science teaching to the dustbin, we ask if the real problem with the lecture as a teaching
technique is a boring lecturer rather than lecturing itself, or the problem with a “cook -book” lab
is the recipes in the book.” I don’t think that there will ever be just one solution to go about
teaching any subject. Certain methods will be better or worse for different students. A good
teacher will find the right combination of lecturing and inquiry for needs of their particular

Heppner , F. H., Kouttab K. R., & Croasdalen W. (2006). Inquiry: does it favor the prepared
mind?. American Biology Teacher, 68(7). Retrieved September 29, 2008, from http://0- document&issn=0002 -

Corrie Trotter

Flick. L. (1990). Affecting preservice elementary teachers’ attitudes toward inquiry teaching in science through projects
with individual children. Atlanta, GA: Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching .
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 319596)
This article talks a good deal about how teachers often have really excited and positive attitudes
toward teaching science concepts, but struggle to get kids interested and struggle to use inquiry -
based instruction even though it is widely known that this is the best way to engage children.
Most often their energy, desire, time, and enthusiasm wane as the year goes on. This article is
actually analyzing and detailing a study and experiment. The study cons isted of 80 teachers each
doing one of the following instructional activities. One of the projects focused on having 1 on 1
discussions with children regarding a science based topic. And the other was centered around a
topic of mutual interest to the teacher and the individual student. After two terms and many
tests, one of the main conclusions was the idea that pretest and posttest scores increased a lot
due to inquiry teaching in the science based study and not in the social science/mutual interest
group. That’s it in a nutshell. It is a very interesting read though

Jennifer Petersen
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Kash, Klaara., & Rannikmae, Mila., (2006). Estonian teachers’ readiness to promote inquiry skills
among students. Journal of Baltic Science Education. Issue 9, p5- 16, p12: (An 20793717).
Retrieved September, 29, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

This article tells us that researches in other countries did studies on inquiry base learning.
Student inquiry skills are very poor and teachers do not adequately teach inquiry without the
help of special interventions. The study being used is aimed toward t he Estonian science classes
and interprets teachers’ development toward inquiry based experimental teaching during an 8 -
month intervention.

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