Exploring Exemplary Elementary Teachers’ Conceptions and Implementation of Inquiry Science

Abstract

This study was an exploration of the conceptions of inquiry science held by exemplary elementary teachers. The origins of these conceptions were explored in order to establish how best to improve elementary teachers’ understanding and implementation of inquiry science teaching. Four focus group sessions were held as well as classroom observations. Data were also collected through surveys and interviews. The six exemplary teachers in this study held ideas about inquiry as “finding things out” and all described themselves as having been children who explored and experimented with the world around them. The teachers provided information about successful classroom environments and attitudes that they use to achieve strong inquiry science learning. The teachers had a number of recommendations for helping other teachers become inquiry science teachers and suggestions for professional development for teachers are made based on these recommendations.

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Correspondence to Judith A. Morrison.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Classroom Observation Rubric (adapted from NRC 2000)

Appendix 2

Focus Group Questions

Session 1

  1. 1.

    How do you personally define inquiry?

  2. 2.

    What is NOT inquiry science?

  3. 3.

    How have you come to these understandings/definitions?

  4. 4.

    What are the characteristics of an inquiry learner?

  5. 5.

    Where do the characteristics of an inquiry learner come from? How do they develop?

Session 2

  1. 1.

    Is there anything to add to the list of characteristics of an inquiry learner?

  2. 2.

    When did you first hear the term “inquiry” as it is associated with teaching science?

  3. 3.

    Has your understanding of that term changed?

  4. 4.

    How would you describe a teacher who uses inquiry science in the classroom?

  5. 5.

    What might you see happening in that classroom?

Session 3

  1. 1.

    What do you think has to occur for a teacher to become an “inquiry” science teacher?

  2. 2.

    What would you recommend that I do in my science methods courses to help preservice teachers understand inquiry science teaching?

  3. 3.

    What were the most significant experiences that you had that led to you being an inquiry teacher?

Session 4

  1. 1.

    What are the barriers that exist that prevent inquiry science from occurring in more classrooms?

  2. 2.

    How might these be mitigated?

  3. 3.

    What needs to happen in your school for more inquiry to take place?

  4. 4.

    How might you talk to the teachers in your school about inquiry?

  5. 5.

    How might you talk to the administrators in your school about inquiry?

Appendix 3

Post Focus Group Survey

Are there any new ideas or concepts that you have gained through our discussions in this group?

Were any of your existing ideas reinforced or solidified through discussions at our meetings?

Have you gained any teaching ideas or strategies that may be useful in your classroom?

Have you set any goals or objectives for your teaching as a result of these focus group discussions?

Do you have any ideas/opinions/feelings/thoughts about inquiry science and or teaching using inquiry that did not come out in the discussions that you are willing to share?

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Morrison, J.A. Exploring Exemplary Elementary Teachers’ Conceptions and Implementation of Inquiry Science. J Sci Teacher Educ 24, 573–588 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-012-9302-3

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Keywords

  • Inquiry science teaching
  • Elementary science teaching
  • Teachers’ conceptions about inquiry science