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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
dents of diverse cultures and languages think about science, the experiences they have had in learning science, and, ultimately, how to structure new science learning experiences to optimize students’ opportunities to learn important science concepts and inquiry abilities. The degree of structure given to lessons and the amount of direct “teaching” of inquiry skills need to depend on teachers’ keen assessment of students’ language development, current science knowledge, skills, and beliefs, and cultural orientations (Fradd and Lee, 1999).
Why did the Standards choose toleave out the science process skillssuch as observing, classifying,predicting, and hypothesizing?
The “process skills” emphasized in earlier science education reforms may appear to be missing from the Standards, but they are not. Rather, they are integrated into the broader abilities of scientific inquiry. As the Standards point out, “The standards on inquiry highlight the abilities of inquiry and the development of an understanding about scientific inquiry. Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with inquiry, including asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments” (National Research Council, 1996, p. 105). The Standards thus include the “processes of science” and require that students combine those processes and scientific knowledge to develop their understanding of science.
Do the Standards imply thatteachers should use inquiry inevery lesson?
No. In fact, the Standards emphasize that many teaching approaches can serve the goal of learning science: