exposure, and growing skill and understanding.
A critical component of successful scientific inquiry in grades 9-12 includes having students reflect on the concepts that guide the inquiry. Also important is the prior establishment of an adequate knowledge base to support the investigation and help develop scientific explanations. The concepts of the world that students bring to school will shape the way they engage in science investigations, and serve as filters for their explanations of scientific phenomena. Left unexamined, the limited nature of students' beliefs will interfere with their ability to develop a deep understanding of science. Thus, in a full inquiry, instructional strategies such as small-group discussions, labeled drawings, writings, and concept mapping should be used by the teacher of science to gain information about students' current explanations. Those student explanations then become a baseline for instruction as teachers help students construct explanations aligned with scientific knowledge; teachers also help students evaluate their own explanations and those made by scientists.
Students also need to learn how to analyze evidence and data. The evidence they analyze may be from their investigations, other students' investigations, or databases. Data manipulation and analysis strategies need to be modeled by teachers of science and practiced by students. Determining the range of the data, the mean and mode values of the data, plotting the data, developing mathematical functions from the data, and looking for anomalous data are all examples of analyses students can perform. Teachers of science can ask questions, such as ''What explanation did you expect to develop from the data?" "Were there any surprises in the data?" "How confident do you feel about the accuracy of the data?" Students should answer questions such as these during full and partial inquiries.
Public discussions of the explanations proposed by students is a form of peer review of investigations, and peer review is an important aspect of science. Talking with peers about science experiences helps students develop meaning and understanding. Their conversations clarify the concepts and processes of science, helping students make sense of the content of science. Teachers of science should engage students in conversations that focus on questions, such as "How do we know?" "How certain are you of those results?" "Is there a better way to do the investigation?" "If you had to explain this to someone who knew nothing about the project, how would you do it?" "Is there an alternative scientific explanation for the one we proposed?" "Should we do the investigation over?" "Do we need more evidence?" "What are our sources of experimental error?" "How do you account for an explanation that is different from ours?"
Questions like these make it possible for students to analyze data, develop a richer knowledge base, reason using science concepts, make connections between evidence and explanations, and recognize alternative explanations. Ideas should be examined and discussed in class so that other students can benefit from the feedback. Teachers of science can use the ideas of students in their class, ideas from other classes, and ideas from texts, databases, or other sources—but