The Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based Techniques in Place of Explicit Instruction
What happens when inquiry-based techniques are used in place of explicit instruction when teaching science? A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) states that “from its inception, one of the principal goals of science education has been to cultivate students’ scientific habits of mind, develop their capability to engage in scientific inquiry, and teach them to reason in a scientific context” (p. 41). Most states have many standards and units for each grade level that contain both science content areas and inquiry based skills. The challenge for science teachers especially in the elementary levels is to teach all of the content standards using methods that foster inquiry and the develop of our students’ young minds into scientists as well as students who can achieve highly on state created standardized tests seeking to evaluate their scientific understanding of specific concepts.
The plan is to teach the same standards to each class of fifth graders however teaching one with direct instruction and the other through inquiry-based instruction. In order to gather the quantitative data, students will be given the same pre and post assessments and find out which class learns the content most effectively according to their post test data. To provide a qualitative aspect to the research, observations during the inquiry process and the direct instruction process to see if the students are asking inquiry based questions, having discussions, and applying their evidence to draw a conclusion from their investigations. The third aspect of the study is to interview students from the direct instruction class and from the inquiry class to determine their understanding of the objectives. During the interviews, documentation will note any discussions that indicate the students’ application of inquiry skills, correctly answering content standards questions, and any misconceptions regarding the content. The results of the overall student understanding of the engineering concepts and their use of inquiry skills will determine which instructional method is most effective.
Review of the Literature
Science in elementary schools is often viewed as a content area of little importance compared to learning the basic skills in reading, writing, and math content areas. Because teachers are pressed to reach specific standards for reading and math in the lower elementary grades, science is often taught in smaller units of time. According to Karen Beerer and Alec Bodzin (2003), kindergarten through fifth grade self-contained classrooms spend an average of twenty-five minutes a day in science instruction (p. 2). How can elementary teachers effectively provide inquiry based lessons where students are discovering science concepts with such a limited amount of time? When students are engaged in the practices of science, they develop a deeper understanding of how scientific...