expected or certain goals are not achieved. Of particular interest when student learning is being assessed is the nature of the opportunities students had to learn and achieve the outcomes.

Research can also show what is possible and what looks promising. It can illuminate what students are capable of, what improvements are feasible, and what parts of reform visions are reasonable. In this respect, research can suggest what is not known and could benefit from some additional examination. For example, given the importance of formative assessment established in Chapter 4, research has begun to focus on listening and feedback in science classrooms.


The research on inquiry-based teaching and learning comes from a number of sources. The research base on learning and on effective learning environments makes a strong case for inquiry-based approaches. Research on programs and materials that incorporate inquiry also shows positive influences on many critical dimensions of student learning. Although the research demands a clearer definition of terms and falls short of illuminating all the complexities of teaching for understanding, the evidence from several streams of research is both positive and promising.

Effective science teachers take a number of approaches to teaching. However, as this chapter has argued, their use of inquiry can have a powerful influence on their students’ science learning.

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