Table 2-5. Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry

Learners are engaged by scientifically oriented questions.

Learners give priority to evidence, which allows them to develop and evaluate explanations that address scientifically oriented questions.

Learners formulate explanations from evidence to address scientifically oriented questions.

Learners evaluate their explanations in light of alternative explanations, particularly those reflecting scientific understanding

Learners communicate and justify their proposed explanations.

tific knowledge they obtain from reliable sources. The knowledge and procedures students use to answer the questions must be accessible and manageable, as well as appropriate to the students’ developmental level. Skillful teachers help students focus their questions so that they can experience both interesting and productive investigations.

An example of a question that meets these criteria for young students is: how do mealworms respond to light? One for older students is: how do genes influence eye color? An example of an unproductive question for younger students is: why do people behave the way they do? This question is too open, lending itself to responses that may or may not have a scientific basis. It would be difficult to gather evidence supporting such proposed answers as, “it is human nature” or “some supernatural force wills people to behave the way they do.” An example of an unproductive question for older students is: what will the global climate be like in 100 years? This question is scientific, but it is also very complex. It requires an answer that will almost assuredly not consider all the evidence and arguments that would go into a prediction. Students might consider individual factors, for example, how would increasing cloud cover influence climate change? Or they might consider causal relationships, for example, what effect would 5 degrees warmer (or cooler) temperatures have on plants? currents? weather?

  1. Learners give priority to evidence, which allows them to develop and evaluate explanations that address scientifically oriented questions. As the Standards note, science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing through use of empirical evidence as the basis for explanations about how the natural world works. Scientists concentrate on getting accurate data from observations of phenomena.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement