Research in Science Education

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 1517–1533 | Cite as

Opportunities for Inquiry Science in Montessori Classrooms: Learning from a Culture of Interest, Communication, and Explanation

  • Carol R. RinkeEmail author
  • Steven J. Gimbel
  • Sophie Haskell


Although classroom inquiry is the primary pedagogy of science education, it has often been difficult to implement within conventional classroom cultures. This study turned to the alternatively structured Montessori learning environment to better understand the ways in which it fosters the essential elements of classroom inquiry, as defined by prominent policy documents. Specifically, we examined the opportunities present in Montessori classrooms for students to develop an interest in the natural world, generate explanations in science, and communicate about science. Using ethnographic research methods in four Montessori classrooms at the primary and elementary levels, this research captured a range of scientific learning opportunities. The study found that the Montessori learning environment provided opportunities for students to develop enduring interests in scientific topics and communicate about science in various ways. The data also indicated that explanation was largely teacher-driven in the Montessori classroom culture. This study offers lessons for both conventional and Montessori classrooms and suggests further research that bridges educational contexts.


Inquiry Science instruction Montessori schools Classroom environment Ethnography 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol R. Rinke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven J. Gimbel
    • 1
  • Sophie Haskell
    • 1
  1. 1.Education DepartmentGettysburg CollegeGettysburgUSA

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