scenario, and ask them to discuss the scenario in terms of the types of energy. How best to evaluate and to use the data that come from questioning is equally important to consider and is discussed in a later section.

The analysis here is not simply about a single starting point in a teaching plan. Curriculum also needs consideration. Content has to be considered in a meaningful way so that subgoals help lead to main goals. Box 5-1 provides an example of subgoals for inquiry science. Teachers may determine the subgoals with different levels of specificity. Some teachers may find dividing a concept into too fine a level of detail overly formal. It may deprive them the flexibility of addressing the needs of individual students. Although many of these goals can be determined beforehand, they also may emerge and need to be reevaluated based on assessments occurring during the course of instruction. A check on one step or goal becomes part of the design for the next.

BOX 5-1 Fundamental Abilities and Understandings of Inquiry, 9-12 (Sample)



Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.

Students should formulate a testable hypothesis and demonstrate the logical connections between the scientific concepts guiding a hypothesis and the design of an experiment. They should demonstrate appropriate procedures, a knowledge base, and conceptual understanding of scientific investigations.

Design and conduct scientific investigations.

Designing and conducting a scientific investigation requires introduction to the major concepts in the area being investigated, proper equipment, safety precautions, assistance with methodological problems, recommendations for use of technologies, clarification of ideas that guide the inquiry, and scientific knowledge obtained from sources other than the actual investigation. The investigation may also require student clarification of the question, method, controls, and variables; student organization and display of data; student revision of methods and explanations; a public presentation of the results with a critical response from peers. Regardless of the scientific investigation performed, students must use evidence, apply logic, and construct an argument for their proposed explanations.


Scientists usually inquire about how physical, living, or designed systems function.

Conceptual principles and knowledge guide scientific inquiries. Historical and current scientific knowledge influences the design and interpretation of investigations and the evaluations of proposed explanations made by other scientists.

Mathematics is essential in scientific inquiry.

Mathematical tools and models guide and improve the posing of questions, gathering data, constructing explanations, and communicating results.

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