Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Examining the Features of Earth Science Logical Reasoning and Authentic Scientific Inquiry Demonstrated in a High School Earth Science Curriculum: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Examining the Features of Earth Science Logical Reasoning and Authentic Scientific Inquiry Demonstrated in a High School Earth Science Curriculum: A Case Study

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to investigate the inquiry features demonstrated in the inquiry tasks of a high school Earth Science curriculum. One of the most widely used curricula, Holt Earth Science, was chosen for this case study to examine how Earth Science logical reasoning and authentic scientific inquiry were related to one another and how they were reflected in the curriculum. The framework for data collection and analysis used in this case study included logical reasoning, hermeneutics, and historical method, and authentic inquiry. Two raters validated the framework's adoption in this study, looking at the content validity and reliability after the training. Each rater rated the sample curriculum independently and compared results to see if or how they agreed and disagreed. This process included questions, discussions, and clarifications about items of each framework. For inquiry tasks, results showed that induction (37.6%) and abduction (47.7%) were mainly used for logical reasoning; in hermeneutics, the process termed "forestructures of understanding" (82.7%) was mainly used, and "recursive reasoning" (12.0%) and the "historical nature of human understanding" (5.3%) were minimally used; and in the historical method, "adhering to the modern principle of uniformitarianism" (48.8%) and "constructing proper taxonomies" (34.2%) were mainly used. However, the curriculum included little use of what is typically represented, in high school Earth Science, as the features of authentic scientific inquiry. These features are "making multiple observations" and "developing theories about mechanisms." This study also analyzed the relationships among three types of logical reasoning and the features of authentic scientific inquiry. Based on these findings on logical reasoning and authentic inquiry features, we discuss the implications for inquiry-based Earth Science curriculum development. © 2013 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/12-360.1]

Key words: Earth Science logical reasoning, authentic scientific inquiry


In many countries for more than a decade, scientific inquiry has been a central theme for science curriculum development, including its representation in textbooks (Abd-El Khalick et al, 2004; Anderson, 2007). For example, in 2004, Finland adopted the notion of scientific inquiry being a core idea of science curriculum in its National Core Curriculum (Finnish National Board of Education [FNBE], 2004); in 2007, Singapore made scientific inquiry central to its curriculum framework (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2007); in 2001, the United States developed a new high school Earth Science curriculum based on the essential features of scientific inquiry, calling it Earth System Science in the Community (EarthComm) (Smith et al., 2001).

Each of these countries may have faced different challenges and found its own solution in developing inquiry-based curriculum (e.g., professional development, assessment, and instructional materials). Nonetheless, the common goal of scientific inquiry is to help students understand accurate ideas of science by engaging them in authentic science learning (cf. NRC, 1996, 2012). Current science education emphasizes that students should understand science as a creation of knowledge and a process, rather than acquiring their content knowledge from textbooks. Scientific inquiry appears to achieve this goal by providing opportunities for students to creatively seek knowledge to solve problems in their everyday lives (cf. Minner et al., 2010; Chinn and Malhotra, 2002). In this sense, scientific inquiry serves as a viable means of and an end in science curriculum development.

The National Science Education Standards (NSES; NRC, 1996) provided bases for understanding scientific inquiry, defining it as "... the activities of students in which they develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world" (p. …

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