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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
work, action research, study groups, technology-based learning, curriculum implementation, coaching and mentoring, and immersion in scientific inquiry (the approach taken in Joanna’s workshop). Their research suggests that strategies in which teachers study their own or others’ practice are especially powerful in building their knowledge of how students learn most effectively. Some examples of this kind of professional development are the study of videos of classroom teaching; discussion of written cases of teaching dilemmas; and study of curriculum materials and related student work (assignments, lab reports, assessments, etc.).
Written teaching cases and videotapes of teaching are especially useful in allowing teachers to examine many aspects of inquiry-based teaching and learning. Student thinking can be analyzed as students respond to problems or questions posed by the teacher or to those that they themselves have posed. Teachers can study the responses given by the teacher in the video or case study and the effect of those responses on the students. They also can consider the teaching decisions that were or could be made to help the students learn.
Looking at student work, such as the write-up of an inquiry or the results of a performance assessment, can be a valuable process for teachers. A number of questions can be asked and discussed about the student’s inquiry abilities. Has the student asked a question that can be addressed? Does the design of the investigation demonstrate that the student understands how to control variables? How elaborate is this student’s explanation? Is it based on evidence? Has the student applied his or her new knowledge appropriately to this new situation?
Working with curriculum materials can take many forms. Teachers can work through lessons to learn inquiry and science subject matter as well as to analyze what students will learn, where they might have trouble, and how teachers might help at those points. Teachers can try out a “replacement unit,” substituting an inquiry-oriented unit for one in their current curriculum. Or teachers can analyze how students are learning a particular set of outcomes from a unit that the teachers are all teaching at the same time.
The following vignette illustrates several of the ways teachers can learn and practice their teaching of inquiry using a new set of curriculum materials.