Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Inquiring Minds

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Inquiring Minds

Article excerpt

Regular readers of The Science Teacher (TST) may have noticed a lot of articles on scientific inquiry. A keyword search for "inquiry" in our online archive (www.nsta.org/highschool/?lid=hp) pulls up 179 articles from the last six years alone. In fact, it would be far more difficult to find an article that doesn't include inquiry than one that does. This reflects the prominent place that inquiry holds in national and state standards, NSTA position statements, and local science curricula. Strongly rooted in constructivist learning theory, inquiry-based learning helps students understand and appreciate "the diverse ways scientists study the natural world" (NRC 1996, p. 23).

Notable among TST articles on inquiry are Bell and colleagues' "Simplifying Inquiry Instruction" and McComas's "Laboratory Instruction in the Service of Science Teaching and Learning." Judging by how often these articles are cited in the inquiry literature, Bell et al. (2005) and McComas (2005) seem to have provided a useful model for thinking about inquiry. Each describe a four-tiered model of inquiry--a continuum that ranges from teacher-directed, low-inquiry activities to open-inquiry investigations in which students generate their own research questions and design their own experiments. Apparently, many readers and researchers find this model to be useful for defining inquiry and assessing how much it is supported by a particular activity. Hopefully, this issue of TST will add to this literature.

Inquiry-based learning is not without its challenges, as I was reminded recently while conducting an inquiry investigation with my own chemistry students. …

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