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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
tories” which vary in their degree of structure and guidance by teachers or materials.) Table 2-6 illustrates that inquiry-based learning cannot simply be characterized as one or the other. Instead, the more responsibility learners have for posing and responding to questions, designing investigations, and extracting and communicating their learning, the more “open” the inquiry (that is, the closer to the left column in Table 2-6). The more responsibility the teacher takes, the more guided the inquiry (that is, the closer to the right column on Table 2-6).
Experiences that vary in “openness” are needed to develop the inquiry abilities in Table 2-2. Guided inquiry can best focus learning on the development of particular science concepts. More open inquiry will afford the best opportunities for cognitive development and scientific reasoning. Students should have opportunities to participate in all types of inquiries in the course of their science learning.
How does a teacher decide how much guidance to provide in an inquiry? In making this decision, a key element is the intended learning outcomes. Whether the teacher wants students to learn a particular science concept, acquire certain inquiry abilities, or develop understandings about scientific inquiry (or some combination) influences the nature of the inquiry.
Below are examples of learning experiences designed to incorporate some form of inquiry. (Note the emphasis on series of lessons or learning experiences, rather than single lessons, illustrating that inquiries require time to unfold and for