Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 257-279

First online:

Dilemmas of Teaching Inquiry in Elementary Science Methods

  • William J. NewmanJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Mathematics and Science Education, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • , Sandra K. AbellAffiliated withSouthwestern Bell Science Education Center, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • , Paula D. HubbardAffiliated withDepartment of Curriculum & Instruction, Purdue University
  • , James McDonaldAffiliated withDepartment of Teacher Education and Professional Development, Central Michigan University
  • , Justine OtaalaAffiliated withDepartment of Curriculum & Instruction, Purdue University
  • , Mariana MartiniAffiliated withDepartment of Curriculum & Instruction, Purdue University

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Because various definitions of inquiry exist in the science education literature and in classroom practice, elementary science methods students and instructors face dilemmas during the study of inquiry. Using field notes, instructor anecdotal notes, student products, and course artifacts, science methods course instructors created fictional journal entries to represent the experiences of both the instructors and students during instruction on inquiry. Identified dilemmas were varying definitions of inquiry, the struggle to provide sufficient inquiry-based science-learning experiences, perceived time constraints, determining how much course time should be slated for science instruction versus pedagogy instruction, instructors' and students' lack of inquiry-based learning experiences, grade versus trust issues, and students' science phobia. Instructors' attempts at dealing with these dilemmas included using analogies, increased field-experience time, modeling, and detailed rubrics.