Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 157–177 | Cite as

Student-Generated Scientific Inquiry for Elementary Education Undergraduates: Course Development, Outcomes and Implications

  • Irene SalterEmail author
  • Leslie Atkins


While some researchers have argued for science classrooms that embrace open-inquiry by engaging students in doing science as scientists do (cf. National Research Council [NRC] 1996; Driver et al. in Sci Educ 84:287–312, 2000; Windschitl et al. in Sci Educ 87(1):112–143, 2008), others have argued that open-inquiry is impractical, ineffective, and perhaps even counter-productive towards promoting normative scientific ideas (cf. Kirschner et al. in Educ Psychol 41(2):75–86, 2006; Settlage in J Sci Teach Educ 18:461–467, 2007). One of the challenges in informing the debate on this issue is the scarcity of well-documented courses that engage students in open-inquiry characteristic of scientific research. This paper describes the design, implementation, and outcomes of such a course for undergraduates planning on becoming elementary teachers. The goal of the class was to immerse future teachers in authentic, open-inquiry (without specific learning goals related to scientific concepts) in hopes that students would come away with a deeper understanding of the nature of science (NOS) and improved attitudes towards science. Data collected from a variety of sources indicate that an authentic, open-inquiry experience is feasible to implement in an undergraduate setting, gives students a more sophisticated NOS understanding, improves students’ attitudes towards science and open-inquiry, and changes the way they intend to teach science in their future classrooms.


Scientific inquiry Authentic inquiry Open inquiry Preservice elementary teachers Nature of science Attitudes towards science 



We would like to thank our students, in particular our undergraduate research assistants Vanessa Quevedo and Rachel Boyd. This work was funded through the National Science Foundation Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement program, Grant No. 0837058. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science EducationCalifornia State UniversityChicoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsCalifornia State UniversityChicoUSA

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