Myth 1: All science subject matter should be taught through inquiry. Teaching science effectively requires a variety of approaches and strategies. It is not possible in practice to teach all science subject matter through inquiry, nor is it desirable to do so. Teaching all of science using only one method would be ineffective, and it would probably become boring for students.

Myth 2: True inquiry occurs only when students generate and pursue their own questions. For students to develop the ability to ask questions, they must “practice” asking questions. But if the desired outcome is learning science subject matter, the source of the question is less important that the nature of the question itself. It is important to note, however, that in today’s science classrooms students rarely have opportunities to ask and pursue their own questions. Students will need some of these opportunities to develop advanced inquiry abilities and to understand how scientific knowledge is pursued.

Myth 3: Inquiry teaching occurs easily through use of hands-on or kit-based instructional materials. These materials can increase the probability that students’ thinking will be focused on the right things and learning will occur in the right sequence. However, the use of even the best materials does not guarantee that students are engaged in rich inquiry, nor that they are learning as intended. A skilled teacher remains the key to effective instruction. He or she must pay careful attention to whether and how the materials incorporate the five essential features of inquiry. Using these five features to review materials as well as to assess classroom practice should enhance the kinds and depth of learning.

Myth 4: Student engagement in hands-on activities guarantees that inquiry teaching and learning are occurring. Although participation by students in activities is desirable, it is not sufficient to guarantee their mental engagement in any of the essential features of inquiry.

Myth 5: Inquiry can be taught without attention to subject matter. Some of the rhetoric of the 1960s was used to promote the idea that learning science processes should be the only meaningful outcome of science education. Today, there are educators who still maintain that if students learn the processes of science, they can learn any content they need by applying these processes. But as stated at the beginning of this chapter, student understanding of inquiry does not, and cannot, develop in isolation from science subject matter. Rather, students start from what they know and inquire into things they do not know. If, in some instances, a

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement