In this article, we investigate the relationship between preservice teachers’ inquiry experience and their capacity to reflect on the challenges involved in implementing inquiry into classrooms. For data, we draw on the personal narratives of preservice science teachers enrolled in science instruction courses. Preservice teachers with extensive inquiry experiences perceive implementation challenges principally in terms of teaching and student learning. This contrasts with the perceptions of preservice teachers with limited inquiry experience for whom the main concerns relate to the negative perceptions of others, time, the curriculum, and materials. By identifying these perceptions, it may be possible to develop courses that assist limited and moderate-experience preservice teachers’ move toward the perceptions of their more inquiry experienced colleagues.
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C&I Course Inquiry and Reflection
Our students participate in a number of activities designed to engage them with a range of structured, guided and open inquiries, and reflection on those experiences. The following inquiries and opportunities for reflection are presented in an approximate chronological order through the academic year.
At the beginning of the academic year, all preservice teachers are asked to participate in a questionnaire that asks about their inquiry experience, their understandings of the nature of science, and their expectations for the C&I courses. The same questionnaire is administered at the end of the course in order to examine perceptual changes.
Open inquiry. The preservice teachers are asked to prepare an open inquiry on a topic of their choice. In introducing this activity, the instructors highlight the difficulties that will be encountered, such as the development of a question, the shaping of a method, the identification of variables, data collection and analysis, and presentation. The finished inquiry is presented towards the end of the course to their colleagues, local science teachers, and faculty members from both the education and science faculties. The preservice teachers are periodically asked to reflect on their progress (or lack of) and what they are learning of the nature of inquiry. These reflections are drawn together at the end of the course in discussions around the nature of science and their understanding of the scientific method.
Structured and guided inquiries. Throughout the course there are several opportunities for preservice teachers to engage in these forms of inquiry. These may be demonstrations by the instructors, activities posed by the instructors, or lessons developed by the preservice teachers when they are asked to present material from the provincial curriculum. An important consideration in these inquiries is the development—and application—of protocols for the giving and receiving of feedback. Public opportunities for both written and oral reflection and discussion are provided after each activity or presentation.
In the fall semester, before the first placement, all preservice teachers visit a local high school that has developed a reputation for the teaching of inquiry. During this visit, the preservice teachers are encouraged to observe the teaching and learning that occurs in different teachers’ classrooms and to talk to both students and teachers about their observations. Opportunities are provided for the preservice teachers to reflect on their visit after their return to the faculty.
During the first placement in November and December, all preservice teachers are encouraged to keep in contact with their instructors. For those preservice teachers who remain in the local area, the instructors will visit their classes and provide feedback on what they have observed. These visits are continued in the second placement. The preservice teachers are also required to provide a written reflection on their experiences.
Early in the winter semester, the science chair of the school that was visited in the fall presents a session on the challenges that his school has faced in implementing inquiry over the past 8 years. This includes such issues as perceived constraints on the use of inquiry, the importance of collaboration and political support from the school administration, assessment, and the benefits of inquiry. The preservice teachers are encouraged to discuss any of the points that are raised and also provide a written reflection on what they have heard and seen in the presentation.
Preservice teachers are asked to volunteer to be interviewed about their perceptions of the nature of science, the scientific method, and the teaching of science as inquiry. Those interviews and the questionnaires form the data set for this research.
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Melville, W., Fazio, X., Bartley, A. et al. Experience and Reflection: Preservice Science Teachers’ Capacity for Teaching Inquiry. J Sci Teacher Educ 19, 477 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-008-9104-9
- Pre-service teacher education
- Scientific inquiry
- Inquiry experience