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3 Images of Inquiry in K-12 Classrooms From the earliest grades, students should experience science in a form that engages them in the active construction of ideas and explanations and enhances their opportunities to develop the abilities of doing science. (National Research Council, 1996, p.121) Chapter 2 introduced the funda- ing opportunities to help students mental concepts that underlie inquiry achieve science standards that incor- in science classrooms. It described porate the essential features of inquiry inquiry not only as a means to learn and are supported by instructional science content but as a set of skills models. In the first vignette, a class of that students need to master and as a third graders learns basic ideas from body of understanding that students the life science standards, several of need to learn. It detailed the five the abilities of inquiry, and aspects of essential elements of classroom technological design from a study of inquiry, from engaging with a scientifi- earthworms. In the second vignette, a cally oriented question to communicat- class of eighth graders learn content ing and justifying explanations (Table from the earth and space science 2-5). And it discussed the use of standard and strengthen their inquiry instructional models to organize and abilities through an investigation of sequence inquiry-based experiences. the phases of the moon. In the final This chapter looks at the concepts two vignettes, classes of high school introduced in Chapter 2 in practice. It students engage in inquiry-based units consists largely of classroom vignettes involving forces (included in the that show how teachers create learn- physical science standards) and 39 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-4 environmental issues (from the life CLASSROOMS science and science in personal and social perspectives standards). Ms. Flores’s third-grade class was These vignettes — each of which is engaged in a field study in a vacant lot a composite of classroom experiences near the school. In teams of three, the — provide many opportunities to students had measured off a square reflect on the complexity inherent in meter and marked it with popsicle classroom teaching. In each, inquiry sticks and string. The purpose of the serves both as an outcome and as a study was to recognize the diversity of means of learning. Different teachers organisms that occupy the same pursue multiple outcomes depending environment and understand how that on the nature of the lesson and the environment meets all of their needs. teacher’s intentions. Analyses of these examples demonstrate how learning outcomes, the essential features of classroom inquiry, and learning models fit together in real classrooms. The vignettes can be read in any order, depending on a reader’s inter- est. However, each vignette should be read in the context of the following three questions: During the investigation several • What are the outcomes that the students found earthworms in their teacher is striving to achieve? square meter and became fascinated • How are the five essential with earthworm behavior. Some of features of classroom inquiry incorpo- the other students wanted to know rated into students’ learning experi- why they did not find earthworms in ences? their study areas. Others wanted to • What is the teacher’s instruc- know why the worms were different tional model, and what does he or she sizes. One student suggested that do to help students achieve the worms “liked” to live near some kind desired outcomes? of plants and not others, since when she and her dad went fishing they Discussions following each vignette always dug for worms where there address these three questions. was grass. 40 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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Table 3-1. Excerpts from Life Science Standard, K-4 As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of The characteristics of organisms I Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. The world has many different environments, and distinct environments support the life of different types of organisms. I Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. I The behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger) and by external cues (such as a change in the environment). Humans and other organisms have senses that help them detect internal and external cues. Life cycles of organisms I Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying. The details of this life cycle are different for different organisms. I Plants and animals closely resemble their parents. I Many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents of the organism, but other characteristics result from an individual’s interactions with the environment. Organisms and their environments I All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants. I An organism’s patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism’s environment, including the kinds and numbers of other organisms present, the availability of food and resources, and the physical characteristics of the environment. When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations. I All organisms cause changes in the environment where they live. Some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, whereas others are beneficial (p. 129). The discussion about worms could worm’s life cycle and some of their not have come at a better time, be- habits. cause Mrs. Flores was anticipating a She realized that it would take series of lessons to help her students considerable time for the earthworms learn some of the basic ideas in the to grow, so she decided to include life science standard: characteristics other learning outcomes as well. Her of organisms, life cycles of organisms, assessments of her students indicated and organisms and their environments that they needed to work on several of (Table 3-1). Here was a context for the abilities of inquiry, such as refin- doing so. She contacted a biological ing a question for investigation and supply house and learned that she designing an investigation (the abili- could order supplies of earthworms ties of inquiry are listed in Table 2-2 in with egg cases and immature earth- the previous chapter). She also worms. Ms. Flores was delighted decided to incorporate some abilities because this would enable the chil- of technological design from the dren to observe all stages in the science and technology standard, 41 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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since she thought it would be useful found worms and other places worms for her students to think about design- might be found. Students suggested ing “homes” for their worms (Table 3- looking in wet dirt, under logs, in the 2). And she knew that a full inquiry roots of plants, and in a compost pile. would allow her to weave in attention Ms. Flores then asked them what to understandings of inquiry. Perhaps these places could tell them about how she would invite some local scientists to build a home for worms. In groups into the classroom to point out simi- of four, the students were asked to larities between what the students design a home for worms using an were doing and how the scientists empty two-liter plastic soda bottle with worked. the top section removed. Anticipating the shipment of worms, The students presented their initial Ms. Flores suggested to the children designs before they started building. that they build a place for the worms to Students from other groups listened live. They returned to the vacant lot so carefully and asked lots of questions since they knew that they could revise their designs after the presentations. Some students built their worm homes from soil and leaves and put grass on top. Others covered the sides with black paper “so it is like underground.” Others used just soil and placed their bottle sideways. One group punched tiny holes in the side to let air into the soil and to let extra water out. When the worm shipment arrived, Ms. Flores gave each group a handful the children could explore where they of worms and instructed them to had originally found worms and study observe each worm carefully and draw the nature of the soil where they lived. a picture of it. Drawing provoked The groups returned to their square many questions, including “What kind meter plots and made notes and draw- of an animal is a worm?” Knowing ings of where worms were and were not that children typically have different found. Ms. Flores also asked students conceptions of animals, Ms. Flores to talk to their parents and relatives had them add to their drawings some about where they thought worms lived. sentences describing what kind of The next day in class the students animal they thought it was and why. generated a list of places where they Some said snakes; some said insects; 42 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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Table 3-2. Excerpts from Science and Technology Standard, K-4 As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop: Abilities of technological design I identify a simple problem I propose a solution I implement proposed solutions I evaluate a product or design I communicate a problem, design, and solution Understanding about science and technology I People have always had problems and invented tools and techniques (ways of doing something) to solve problems. Trying to determine the effects of solutions helps people avoid some new problems. I Tools help scientists make better observations, measurements, and equipment for investigations. They help scientists see, measure, and do things that they could not otherwise see, measure, and do. Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans I Some objects occur in nature; others have been designed and made by people to solve human problems and enhance the quality of life. I Objects can be categorized into two groups, natural and designed (pp. 137-138). some had no idea; some said a worm is a worm. Next, Ms. Flores asked students what questions they had about worms and recorded their responses on a large chart. The questions included: “How do earthworms have babies?” “Do they like to live in some kinds of soil better than others?” “Do they really like the dark?” “How do they go through the dirt?” “How big can an earthworm get?” devise tests that she called “fair.” For Ms. Flores divided the class into example, one group wanted to investi- groups and asked each group to gate how much water worms like. Ms. choose a question that they would like Flores asked, “If you wanted to find to investigate and develop a plan for out if worms like very wet, wet, how to do so. The next day the medium wet, or dry soil conditions, groups reported plans for their would it be a ‘fair test’ if you put a investigations, which they had re- worm with very wet soil in a bottle, corded in lab notebooks. Ms. Flores another worm with wet soil in another asked the group how they could 43 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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bottle, and a third worm with medium Two groups were exploring how wet soil in another bottle, then put one the worms reacted to changes in their bottle in the sun and the other two in environment. They were struggling the shade?” “No,” called out a student, with how to deal with moisture, light, “because the bottles in the sun would and temperature all at once. Ms. get hot and worms don’t like hot, Flores asked some leading questions that’s why they live underground, and beginning with “what would happen you couldn’t tell whether it was the hot if?” in the hope that the students they didn’t like or how wet the soil would discover the value of studying was.” Ms. Flores used another one variable at a time. She would group’s design for an investigation to check on them later. assess whether other students under- Another group wanted to know stood this idea of a fair test. about the eating habits of worms. Ms. Flores then asked the groups They decided to put slices of different how they would know which place a fruits and vegetables into the soil and worm “liked” the best. Students’ count the number of worm holes as answers varied. One said if the worms evidence of what worms liked best. grew bigger and had babies that was a The two other groups set up a dis- sign they “liked” a place. Several said carded ant farm with glass sides to that if the worms died it meant they observe the movement of worms in didn’t like something. Another different kinds of soil. suggested that if they set up an Through the investigations and experiment where there were differ- discussions of their observations, ent options for the worms, where the measurements, and library research, worms crawled would tell you what Ms. Flores’s students came to know they liked. more about the characteristics of With a better understanding of what worms, for example how they move, evidence to look for and how to their eating habits, their life cycles, prepare a fair test, the students were the characteristics of their environ- soon deep into their investigations. ments, and their relationship to their One group was studying the question environments. Their observations, of how earthworms have babies. They combined with the research they did were busy examining the egg cases in library books, helped them under- that they found in the soil using hand stand why worms were not snakes or lenses and making drawings. They insects, but members of a phylum compared their drawings to those in called annelid. They used the draw- books the librarian had brought to ings and information in their lab class for them and read about other notebooks to produce their own characteristics of earthworms. books, illustrated with drawings and 44 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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diagrams. They also revisited their fair test helped them be certain that designs for worm homes, given the the answers and explanations they evidence they had gathered over the proposed were reasonable. They past several weeks, and talked about reviewed how they learned to make how they could redesign them to work obser vations and measurements better. using hand lenses, rulers, and During the final days of the study, balances. Ms. Flores focused discussions on For the final section of their books, the ways of thinking and actions Ms. Flores asked the students to write taken during the course of their a short explanation of what they would investigations. The students learned tell another student if that student to limit their explanations to ones wanted to study worms. She also that they could support with evi- asked them to write what they would dence from their own obser vations. do differently if they had the project to Ms. Flores demonstrated how they do over again. Finally, each group could check their explanations assembled their drawings, photo- against scientific reports in books graphs, data tables, and notes of their and with the obser vations of others. observations into books and presented They discussed how conducting a the results of their investigation to the 45 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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class. They shared the books with the of organisms, their life cycles, and kindergarten and first-grade students living environments; abilities and and also took them home for their understandings of scientific inquiry; parents and others to read. Ms. and the science and technology Flores also used their books as a form standard on technological design. Ms. of assessment and analyzed them for Flores decided to work especially hard the extent to which students demon- to help her students develop each of strated understanding of the science the abilities of inquiry — from posing concepts and their abilities to think and honing a good question, to con- scientifically. ducting a “fair test,” to communicating As a culminating activity, Ms. explanations in different and meaning- Flores invited two scientists to visit ful ways. Finally, she helped her her classroom. To prepare the visiting students understand what scientists scientists, she loaned each several of do by linking their own inquiries to the students’ research report books those of scientists. and she gave them a list of the funda- In an elementary classroom such as mental concepts for the standard on Ms. Flores’, science activities can also understanding scientific inquiry. The help students develop language and scientists intrigued the students with mathematics skills — an important their personal stories of investigations concern for young children. In her that produced evidence similar to class, students were developing observations made by the students. abilities to communicate their obser- Students were especially interested in vations in writing and orally, to craft the last stage: how the scientists and share their explanations using needed to make their results public, logical reasoning, and to measure, which meant that they were often display, and interpret data. This criticized and challenged as part of demonstrates the integrative potential building a strong base of scientific of science activities for elementary knowledge. school classrooms. Essential Features of Classroom ANALYSIS OF K-4 IMAGE OF Inquir y. Ms. Flores’s unit had all of INQUIRY the essential features of classroom Learning Outcomes. Ms. Flores inquiry. Her students identified a sought to help her students achieve question of their own interest about several abilities and understandings earthworms around which to design specified in the National Science an investigation. The question derived Education Standards, including from their own understanding of the understandings of the characteristics characteristics and environments of 46 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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earthworms and their curiosity about cycles and their abilities of inquiry. As these animals, and so the question third graders, Ms. Flores’s students they chose engaged them thoroughly. did not begin with well-developed As they developed answers to their inquiry abilities. But because Ms. questions, Ms. Flores helped them Flores realized that using earthworms understand that they needed evidence would involve an investigation extend- and what the nature of that evidence ing over several weeks, she took needed to be. They looked for evi- advantage of the fact that she could dence through their careful observa- pay a great deal of attention to devel- tions and what they read in scientific oping her students’ inquiry abilities as books. Learning about fair tests they learned the subject matter increased the likelihood that their content. Therefore, her students’ evidence would be sound. As they inquiry was relatively open, with as collected their evidence, they built much coaching as necessary to make their cases for explanations that sure that the class had many choices addressed their questions. The group for research questions, had a variety looking for favorable environments, of designs for their investigations, and observed how the earthworms be- clearly communicated their results. haved in “homes” with varying amounts of moisture, and arrived at Instructional Model. Ms. Flores’s their explanation of just the right unit illustrates an interesting and amount; the group examining eating complex sequence of learning activi- habits observed the numbers of worm ties. Early in the unit, she engaged holes in different fruits and vegetables the students repeatedly in direct, and explained worm “preferences” firsthand experience, first almost by through those data. Throughout the accident as they stumbled upon the investigations, students developed earthworms in their study of the their own explanations using the vacant lot. Later Ms. Flores involved evidence they collected and compared them again in examining the area them with published scientific expla- where they originally found the worms nations from their text books, library so that they could think about what books, and the Web. Finally, the kind of “home” they would build for students communicated their learning their worms. in a variety of ways, clarifying what As Ms. Flores focused the students they did, what results they achieved, on the questions they generated and and how they knew the results were the ideas they had about worms, they correct. This communication also began to explore the worms’ charac- served Ms. Flores as an assessment of teristics, their environments, and their her students’ understanding of life life cycles. They made observations 47 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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over days and weeks; tried out their by the impossibility of saying where ideas; proposed explanations; and one stage of the instructional model shared what they were learning with stopped in Ms. Flores’s unit and the others. Ms. Flores called them other began: students were engaging, together on a regular basis to help exploring, explaining, elaborating, and them synthesize what they were evaluating throughout the several learning and create explanations. She weeks they spent studying worms. supplemented their explanations with However, her instructional model scientific information in library books. helped Ms. Flores lay out the unit Towards the end of the unit, Ms. initially and monitor and assess her Flores gave her students opportunities students’ learning and development as to elaborate on what they were learn- it proceeded. ing. The visit from the scientists deepened their understanding of how IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN 5-8 their investigations resembled those CLASSROOMS of scientists. Finally, Ms. Flores’s continual questioning and coaching Each year Mr. Gilbert looks for- gave both Ms. Flores and the students ward to teaching the solar system unit, opportunities to evaluate their especially when they get to the moon progress in an ongoing way. The (see Table 3-3). From past experi- assignment to speculate on what they ence, Mr. Gilbert knew that most would do differently were they to middle school students have difficulty repeat their investigation, with some finding an explanation for the moon’s reasons why, allowed them to reflect phases consistent with their direct back and assess the process and value observations, which always made the of their work. unit challenging as well as exciting. An instructional model must not be Further, learning about the moon’s used as a “lockstep” device that limits phases also provided many opportuni- the flexibility of a teacher to facilitate ties for his students to develop critical an inquiry that is sensitive to students’ inquiry abilities: to use scientific needs and interests. This is illustrated instrumentation to increase and Table 3-3. Excerpts from Earth and Space Science Standard, 5-8 As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of Earth in the solar system I Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion. Those motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses (p. 160). 48 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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book at rest. Most of the class in- talking about horizontal forces, does cluded an upward force by the spring that also work with vertical forces?” in their diagrams. A few others Again, he guided his students to see argued that because the spring was the consistency across contexts, in not alive, it could not “exert” a force. this case, explanations of the at-rest Mr. Hull asked, “So, how come condition should be the same whether many of you who said the table does considering horizontal forces or not exert a force are now saying that vertical forces. This gave some the spring does exert an upward rational argument for an upward force. force? The spring isn’t alive.” The Mr. Hull asked his students to think students responded, “The spring about evidence. “What observable moves.” “The spring compresses or evidence do you have that the table extends.” exerts an upward force?” A few The teacher asked the students to students suggested the table bent like think about what was similar about the the spring. Others countered, arguing situations in which they were willing that the table was a heavy, solid to say there was an upward force. demonstration table, that it was rigid They suggested that when the book and therefore could not bend. The was on the hand, one could see or feel students suggested the need for a the muscular activity in order to critical experiment. “How could we support the book, and when the book see whether the table bends at all?” was on the spring one could see the asked the teacher. Not hearing any change in the length of the spring. suggestions, Mr. Hull proposed that Mr. Hull pointed out that they were they use a “light lever.” Bringing out a responding to evidence for a force by light source (in this case a laser looking at some change in the “thing” pointer), he placed it so that the light that is doing the supporting. He hit the shiny table top at a low glanc- wanted his students to be seeking ing angle. With the room lights off, observational evidence in support of one could see where the reflected their ideas and inferences. light hit the far wall. The teacher Mr. Hull: “How about those of you checked to be sure that the students who suggest the table does exert an knew that if the table bends, the light upward force. In what way does that on the wall should move. Although make sense to you?” While gesturing the movement was not readily notice- sideways, one student said, “When- able with one book placed on the ever anything stays still, if there is a table, as the stack got larger and was force on one side, there has to be a taken off and back on, the light could force on the other side to keep it be seen to move. stopped.” Mr. Hull: “ I see you are After exploring ideas about force 63 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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through questions, discussion, and conception of force is more like the observations for much of the class one our class has derived. Also, we period, the students were ready to now know that this conception has summarize their class experience and worked well for scientists for a long its implications for the meaning of time. Like scientists, we will take our force. One said: “Since the table bent, present idea of force as tentative and like a stiff spring, all things had to use it until new evidence suggests we deform some to support the book. might need to revise it.” Deformation was one sort of evidence The inquiry does not end here. In we could look for when we considered subsequent lessons focusing on forces forces.” Another added, “That meant on moving objects, students further we could give the same explanation develop their understanding of force [involving an upward force] across and of the nature and processes of several different ‘at rest’ systems.” science. The preceding lesson is but Another said: “That also meant we one short inquiry allowing students to didn’t need to worry about whether begin to understand the complex ideas the supporting object was alive, that science has developed related to awake, active, or passive. We could force and motion. just focus on the observable evidence of deformation, although sometimes ANALYSIS OF 9-12 IMAGE OF we might need more sensitive instru- INQUIRY ments [like a light lever] to detect the deformation.” Mr. Hull pointed out This example represents one lesson that that was one of the “rules” of conducted in a single class period. science: “If a simple, consistent Nevertheless, it demonstrates how a explanation would work across several teacher can seamlessly interweave situations, then use the simpler science subject matter, inquiry abilities, explanation rather than needing to and understandings of scientific inquiry. rely on use of different explanations depending on some non-observable Learning Outcomes. Mr. Hull used characteristic like whether the object three learning outcomes from his local was actively or passively supporting school district curriculum and state the book.” Mr. Hull further validated standards to help him plan what and the work of the students, suggesting how to teach. Each of these three “that force could have been defined by outcomes is also found in the Na- incorporating the active/passive tional Science Education Standards. distinction, but for reasons like First, his lesson provided opportuni- consistency and tying our ideas to ties for his students to understand and observable evidence, the scientists’ apply the concept from physics of 64 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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forces acting on objects in various Instructional Model. The example states of motion. The students’ prior of Mr. Hull and his students illustrates understandings were challenged by one way of organizing and sequencing questions about objects and forces in learning and teaching activities different contexts; this caused them to consistent with inquiry. Through look for evidence to build improved questioning, Mr. Hull actively engaged explanations. Second, he helped his his students in thinking about the students develop abilities to do scien- existence of an upward force on an tific inquiry, attending, in particular, to object at rest on a table. He used determining what constituted evi- student-generated drawings to find out dence of forces acting on objects in more about their current understand- various conditions, and building ing of whether objects, such as a table evidence-based explanations that or hand, can exert an upward force on would apply across different contexts. an object at rest. Mr. Hull drew on the Finally, Mr. Hull shared aspects of the prior knowledge of the students to nature of scientific inquiry with the pose questions that motivated them to students and drew on their ideas to explore whether other types of ob- show how scientists think and work. jects, such as springs, can exert an upward force. The students developed explanations about how a stationary Essential Features of Classroom Inquir y. This lesson includes a object could exert an upward force. number of the essential features of Mr. Hull explained how scientists classroom inquiry described in think about forces and helped the Chapter 2. Scientific questions students elaborate their explanations focused students’ thinking about the across different contexts. The stu- forces acting on objects in various dents critiqued their ideas on the basis states of motion. The students gath- of evidence. Through class discus- ered observable evidence to develop sion, Mr. Hull was able to evaluate explanations and gain a deeper under- student thinking and use this informa- standing of the concept of force. They tion to help structure the flow of the also questioned proposed explana- lesson. tions, focusing on the search for In this vignette the teacher clearly observable evidence. Mr. Hull guided guided the inquiry. Yet, stimulated by the building of explanations from the an initial question from the teacher, evidence gathered. At the conclusion students asked their own questions, of the lesson, he helped the students voiced their concerns, and shared make connections from their experi- their ideas. They also critiqued ideas ences to current scientific thinking focusing on the search for evidence. about forces and motion. 65 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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ANOTHER IMAGE OF INQUIRY for additional information, and draw IN GRADES 9-12 definable conclusions — all of which will be called on in the full inquiry Every year in the spring, Ms. they are now beginning. Idoni’s biology class conducts a full Before starting inquiry, Ms. Idoni and open inquiry. The inquiry takes makes plans for how to assess stu- several weeks of class during the dents’ learning on an ongoing basis. semester, so students have ample time She will ask each student to keep a to conduct their investigation. Ms. journal through the inquiry. Because Idoni begins the inquiry by taking the she is most interested in emphasizing students on a field trip to an environ- the development of inquiry abilities, ment where she is relatively certain Ms. Idoni will have the students their interest will be engaged. All organize their journals according to a year, students look forward to this slightly modified form of the funda- experience. It is a tradition with Ms. mental abilities as described in the Idoni and the students have heard that Standards. The categories Ms. Idoni it is hard work, but something they will use are: will really find interesting. Earlier in the school year the • Questions and scientific ideas students have had many opportunities that guide the investigation to learn and practice the inquiry skills • Design of the investigation they will need to conduct a full inquiry. • Technology and mathematics for Ms. Idoni has used a series of “invita- the investigation tions to inquiry” (Mayer, 1978), which • Use of evidence to present are short teaching units designed to explanations give students small samples of the • Alternative explanations process of inquiry. Each sample has a • Conclusions and defense of blank the students are invited to fill, explanations for example, the plan of an investiga- tion, a way to control one factor in an As students record their observa- experiment, or the conclusion to be tions, Ms. Idoni will review their drawn from a set of data. Each “invita- journals and ask more specific ques- tion” focuses student learning on one tions about scientific concepts that or two abilities of inquiry. Participat- underlie their explanations, how ing in the series of invitations over the technology helps them, what evidence year has equipped Ms. Idoni’s stu- they are collecting, if they have the dents to identify questions that can be best evidence and explanation, what investigated, design appropriate other ideas they have heard, and if investigations, gather data, interpret they have the strongest conclusions. data, consult sources such as the Web 66 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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Ms. Idoni sets the stage for the field trip by explaining to the students that for most of the year their biology class has studied ideas and conducted laboratories that scientists and educa- tors think that all students should know and experience. Although these experiences provide a foundation, now the approach will be different. They will have the opportunity to study something about the environment that they find interesting. “The field trip will help you decide what question you want to pursue.” This year, Ms. Idoni current concepts of the aquatic has decided to take the students to a environment will shape, and may limit, lake in the city park. When they their questions and ultimately their arrive at the lake, Ms. Idoni asks the inquiry. So, after an initial class students to simply walk around the discussion, Ms. Idoni knows she will lake, to observe the lake, and to think rely on small groups, brief reports on about questions that they may be progress, and cooperative learning for interested in answering. She asks the investigations. them to record the observations and Student questions begin with issues questions in their journal. such as: Is the lake water safe to The next day’s activity centers on drink? Can people swim in the lake? the students’ observations and ques- What kinds of plants and animals live tions. Ms. Idoni approaches these in the lake? How have humans discussions with caution. She is changed the lake? As the discussion sensitive to the balance between continues, it becomes clear to Ms. sustaining the students’ interest and Idoni that the students are most enthusiasm and the critical elements interested in change and stability in of a successful scientific inquiry for the lake and, in particular, the influ- 10th graders. A critical aspect of ence humans have had on this envi- successful inquiry is having students ronment. It also is clear that students reflect on the ideas and scientific have ideas about how the lake concepts that guide the inquiry. Also changes: the temperature changes important is a knowledge base to daily and with seasons; there was support the investigation and help more dirt since a recent rain; some students to formulate an appropriate small organisms could be seen; and, in scientific explanation. Students’ some places, there were different 67 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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possible human influences. Ms. Idoni lets the students grapple with these issues, which seem to center on one major idea: as living and non-living elements of an ecosystem interact, they change. Any study of changes in an environment, such as the city lake, must begin with an analysis of the patterns of change under normal circumstances. Students realize they have to understand the natural func- tions of the interactive system before tackling the more complex question of the impact of human actions, in particular, their notion of pollution. At this point Ms. Idoni realizes she already has her final assessment: she will suggest that something has polluted the lake and the students will have to apply what they have learned smells associated with the water. Ms. to this new problem. But, for the time Idoni probes the students about their being, she must wait and let the observations and reminds them to students pursue their questions and make entries in their journals. What investigations. important aspect of the lake do they After hearing the results of small want to investigate? What kinds of group discussions, Ms. Idoni facili- human influences are of most interest? tates a large group review of ideas and “Pollution” is the term Ms. Idoni hears helps students identify an overarching first and most consistently. She thinks question for the class to pursue in the it is essential to clarify the students’ investigation. The class decides on a understanding of pollution and in general question: Is city park lake particular the possible sources of polluted? If so, how have humans human pollution in the city lake. She influenced the pollution? The class asks the students to discuss in small decides to approach the inquiry by groups what they mean by pollution first establishing a baseline of data for the city lake. about city lake and then determine if Over several class periods, they the lake is polluted. Students realize struggle with the issue of normal that many factors affect water quality. change, what counts as pollution, and With help from Ms. Idoni, they decide 68 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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to organize their work, and so them- mental list of the inquiry abilities for selves, to focus on three kinds of grades 9-12 and notes which abilities factors: physical, chemical, and the students are engaged in as the biological. The group investigating inquiry progresses. Second, she physical factors is interested in recognizes that students are using temperature, color, limits of light what they have learned of physical and penetration, and amounts and types of life sciences earlier in the year, espe- suspended particles. The chemical cially the fundamental understandings factors group wants to learn about pH associated with the life science stan- (which they have measured in various dard on the interdependence of classes in past years and suspect organisms (see Table 3-5). Finally, might have something to do with a Ms. Idoni sees that this entire inquiry lake’s “condition”), and amounts of is providing ample opportunities for all oxygen, carbon dioxide, phosphates, students to understand several parts and nitrates. The biological group of the standard on science in personal wants to investigate the numbers and and social perspectives, especially kinds of organisms. those associated with natural re- Students decide to design the sources and environmental quality inquiry as follows. Each group will (see Table 3-6). gather data for a period of two months, As the students begin organizing reporting all results to the other their group investigations, they easily groups on a regular basis. Each group and quickly recognize that the use of also will report about their ideas and various technologies will improve data what their library and computer gathering and mathematics will searches suggest about the potential improve the summary and presenta- influence of the factors they are tion of data. For example, they decide studying on the quality of city lake. to set up temperature probes and Ms. Idoni is very pleased with the record data directly into computers, way the class investigation is taking and to use Hach oxygen test kits, a pH shape. Although she knows the meter, a Millipore environmental students will still struggle with the microbiology kit, and common items question of how to determine what that help them gather samples for counts as pollution, and especially the examination in the science classroom. human influence, she lets this issue Ms. Idoni schedules periodic remain unresolved. In fact, knowing it meetings in which the students share will emerge on its own, she doesn’t data they have collected and present bring it up. what they understand about the Ms. Idoni is especially aware of influence of various factors. With three things. First, she keeps a time, students begin to realize that the 69 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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Table 3-5. Excerpt from Life Science Standard, 9-12 As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of: Interdependence of organisms I Energy flows through ecosystems in one direction, from photosynthetic organisms to herbivores to carnivores and decomposers. I Organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems. I Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension has profound effects on the interactions between organisms. I Human beings live within the world’s ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected. Matter, energy, and organization in living systems I The distribution and abundance of organisms and populations in ecosystems are limited by the availability of matter and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials (p. 186). Table 3-6. Excerpt from Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Standard, 9-12 As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of Environmental quality I Natural ecosystems provide an array of basic processes that affect humans. Those processes include maintenance of the quality of the atmosphere, generation of soils, control of the hydrologic cycle, disposal of wastes, and recycling of nutrients. Humans are changing many of these basic processes, and the changes may be detrimental to humans. I Materials from human societies affect both physical and chemical cycles of the earth. I Many factors influence environmental quality, including population growth, resource use, population distribution, overconsumption, the capacity of technology to solve problems, poverty, the roles of economic, political, and religious views, and different ways humans view the earth (p. 198). factors interact. In one discussion, for isms influence how much oxygen and example, the physical factors team carbon dioxide are present. In one suggests that temperature determines highly energized session, the students the number and kinds of organisms. realize that an investigation of water The chemical factors team reports quality is a search for relationships that the numbers and kinds of organ- 70 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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among physical, chemical, and biologi- formulate an answer to their guiding cal factors. question. Their observations and In the process of data analysis, explanations continually expand; they student teams review their findings, find they have to consider factors they look at ranges of data and trends over did not originally think were impor- the period of study (it is spring), and tant, such as season, rainfall, and the determine what is appropriate to activities of domestic animals. consider and how to deal with anoma- As they compile all of the evidence lous data. During their group work, Ms. and begin the difficult task of answer- Idoni moves from group to group and ing their question, they realize they asks questions, such as “What explana- must first address the question: tion did you expect to develop from the “What counts as pollution?” The data?” “Where there any surprises in students decide that they will use the data?” “How confident do you feel coliform bacteria because of what they about the accuracy of the data?” learn in their reading. The literature After two months, the groups points out that water can look, taste, present their data and their explana- and smell perfectly clean and yet be tion of the specific effect the factors unsafe to drink because it contains they studied have on the lake and if bacteria. This eventually becomes the the effect would count as pollution. As students’ operational definition of students listen to the different groups, pollution. They learn that coliform they recognize and analyze alternative bacteria live longer and are easier to explanations and models for under- detect in water than bacteria that standing stability, change, and the cause disease. Their presence is potential of pollution in the city lake. considered a real warning signal of They review what they know, weigh sewage pollution. If coliform bacteria the evidence for different explana- are not present in city lake, then, the tions, and examine the logic of the students reason, the answer to their different group presentations. They question is that the lake is free of challenge each others’ findings, pollution — at least by their opera- elaborating on their own knowledge as tional definition of human pollution. they help each other learn more about Working across groups, the class their particular factors. Slowly, they compiles their respective reports and form the view that all factors have to prepares one major summary of their be considered in any explanation for inquiry. They also include summaries pollution of the lake. of their respective results. The To Ms. Idoni’s surprise and plea- reports are excellent. Students sure, the students decide that they capably describe procedures, express want to synthesize the data and scientific concepts, review informa- 71 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS

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tion, summarize data, develop charts full inquiry. She also realizes that the and data, explain statistical procedures experiences provided students with they used, and construct a reasonable the background they need to develop and logical argument for their answer deeper understanding of many science to the question, “Is city park lake concepts and the connections between polluted?” “And, if so, what is the science and personal and social issues. human influence on the pollution?” Finally, Ms. Idoni uses the experience The class concludes that, even though of doing a full inquiry to review and city park lake experiences variations strengthen students’ understandings and changes in many factors, it is not about scientific inquiry. polluted. Ms. Idoni thinks the experience is For the final assessment, Ms. Idoni important because it provides students presents a new problem and asks each with an understanding of the ways that student to prepare a report describing scientists pursue questions that they how he or she would investigate the identify as important. It also gives problem. Here is the problem: over students one opportunity to use all of several weeks there is a massive fish the abilities described for the Science kill in the lake. Everyone suspects as Inquiry standard in the National pollution — of some sort. But, no one Science Education Standards. She knows exactly how to investigate the knows that for students to develop problem. The one thing they have these abilities, they must actively discovered is that coliform bacteria participate in scientific investigations have not been found in the lake. and use the cognitive and manipulative Students are to propose an inquiry skills associated with the formulation that might be used by the City Council of scientific explanations. to address this problem. As she initiates the activity, Ms. Idoni knows that some students will have trouble with variables and ANALYSIS OF ANOTHER 9-12 controls in experiments. Further, IMAGE OF INQUIRY students often have trouble with data Ms. Idoni is pleased with the that seem anomalous and in proposing student work and certain that it explanations based on evidence and demonstrates significant learning. logic rather than on their beliefs about Their work has provided opportunities the natural world. for all students to develop the abilities Ms. Idoni uses the initial field of scientific inquiry described in the experience as a way to make the investigation meaningful to students. National Science Education Standards — her primary learning goal for the She understands there are several 72 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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ways that students may find meaning- CONCLUSION ful topics to pursue, for example, Inquiry-based teaching requires current topics in the media, local careful attention to creating learning problems, and personal experiences. environments and experiences where She also knows that initially some students can confront new ideas, experiences may not be highly engag- deepen their understandings, and ing, but active involvement by its very learn to think logically and critically nature has some meaning. Over about the world around them. This several years of teaching experience, chapter has suggested some ways to Ms. Idoni has decided that for a “see” inquiry in classrooms. The next majority of students an initial field trip chapter turns to how teachers learn to provides the most meaningful context achieve and assess the wide range of for beginning the inquiry. outcomes they strive for in their use of inquiry. 73 IMAGES OF INQUIRY IN K-12 CLASSROOMS