Science teachers' perceptions and implementation of classroom inquiry

Date of Completion

January 2005


Education, Sciences




U.S. students' test scores on National and International science assessments have not improved despite the flurry of science education reform efforts. Why have the reforms been largely ineffective? To what extent have teachers come to understand and implement the current reform initiatives? These are questions that need answers in order to help us accomplish our goal of providing students with a well-rounded science education. The purpose of this study is to start answering these questions by examining the relationship between teachers' perception and implementation of inquiry instruction, as well as their students' perception and performance on inquiry activities. Two research questions, how do teachers perceive and implement inquiry teaching and how are teachers' beliefs about student learning reflected in their pedagogy, were used to guide this study. A group of 6 science teachers and their students from grades 7 to 12 were the subjects for this study. A mixed methodology was utilized using both qualitative and quantitative data. Data from surveys of teachers and students, classroom observations, and interviews of teachers and students was analyzed and then categorized into similar groups and subgroups in order to answer the research questions. The common themes and conclusions that emerged from this study were that: Teachers exhibit a continuum of inquiry, ranging from teachers who incorporate a little inquiry into their instruction to those who have integrated it as a part of their normal instruction. Teachers' beliefs about student learning and inquiry instruction are related to their pedagogical practices. Another finding is that students have little say into what occurs instructionally in the classroom. Lastly, there exists an incongruity between the data from the surveys and the interview data, which further illustrates the usefulness of using a mixed methodological approach. Further research is recommended to examine how to best use information on teacher's epistemological beliefs about student learning and inquiry to help teachers move along the inquiry continuum towards a more inquiry-based classroom. ^