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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and positive attitudes toward science. Another review from Flick (1995) addresses research on explicit instruction as well as inquiry-oriented instruction. He notes that explicit teaching can produce major gains in student achievement on selected kinds of instructional objectives, but goes on to point out that “The high levels of teacher supervision implied by explicit teaching models may not foster the kinds of thinking required for instruction with complex and more ill-structured tasks” (p. 17).
In the final analysis, review of the research on the effectiveness of inquiry-based teaching and learning leads to a discussion of one’s objectives for science education. If one accepts the full sweep of content in the National Science Education Standards, including conceptual understanding of science principles, comprehension of the nature of scientific inquiry, development of the abilities for inquiry, and a grasp of applications of science knowledge to societal and personal issues, this body of research clearly suggests that teaching through inquiry is effective.
Research on inquiry is continuing. Some studies are directed at special student populations. For example, research on teachers’ roles in promoting science inquiry with students from diverse language backgrounds, although in its infancy, has pointed to the need to consider carefully how best to design and structure inquiries for these students (Fradd and Lee, 1999). Research by Delpit (1995) suggests the importance of students receiving explicit instruction in the skills they need to engage in science inquiry and learn from inquiry experiences. Other research by Rosebery et al. (1992), as noted earlier, indicates that students learning English can successfully engage in science inquiry and learn science concepts as well as the language in culture of science. In their research on students with learning disabilities, Scruggs et al. (1993) found significantly higher learning with an inquiry-oriented approach. Studies continue in other countries as well. A study in university-level biochemistry in Turkey (Basaga et al., 1994) found higher achievement for students using an inquiry-oriented approach than those in a traditional approach. Another university-level study in Ireland (Heywood and Heywood, 1992) found similar results on pupil tests for students in discovery and expository approaches, but greater student motivation with discovery approaches. A pattern of general support for inquiry-based teaching continues to emerge from the research.