often exist in a curriculum, but rarely deepen understanding. If they teach subjects other than science, they can integrate science outcomes into other subject areas (for example, presenting the findings of an investigation in a language arts lesson).
Teachers and administrators can be helped by district and state decision-makers who can reduce the number of topics that teachers are required to teach.
How much structure and how much freedom should teachers provide in inquiry-oriented science lessons?
The type and amount of structure can vary depending on what is needed to keep students productively engaged in pursuit of a learning outcome. Students with little experience in conducting scientific inquiries will probably require more structure. For example,
a teacher might want to select the question driving an investigation. She or he also might decide to provide a series of steps and procedures for the students guided by specific questions and group discussion. The instructional materials themselves often provide questions, suggestions, procedures, and data tables to guide student inquiry.
As students mature and gain experience with inquiry, they will become adept at clarifying good questions, designing investigations to test ideas, interpreting data, and forming explanations based on data. With such students, the teacher still should monitor by observation, ask questions for clarification, and make suggestions when needed. Often, teachers begin the school year providing considerable structure and then gradually provide more opportunities for student-centered investigations.
Many teachers in the primary grades have considerable success with whole class projects. An example is a class experiment to answer the question: “What is the ‘black stuff’ on the bottom of the aquarium?” Guided by the teacher, the students can focus and clarify the question. They can ponder where the “black stuff” came from based on their prior knowledge of goldfish, snails, and plants. Using their prior knowledge, the students then can propose explanations and decide what they need to set up a fair test. How many aquariums will they need? What