Taken together, the research findings presented in this chapter build a powerful argument for inquiry-based teaching and learning of science.


A recent report of the National Research Council entitled How People Learn (Bransford et al., 1999) demonstrates a broad consensus about how learning occurs. The report synthesized research from a variety of fields, including cognition, child development, and brain functioning. It also drew from research across content areas, with important contributions from the research on science learning.

Several general findings from the study are presented below, with illustrations drawn from research on science learning. These findings are in turn connected to the definition of inquiry introduced in Chapter 2 and used throughout this volume.

Research Finding 1: Understanding science is more than knowing facts. The emphasis of recent research has been on learning for understanding, which means gaining knowledge that can be used and applied to novel situations. Research on people who have expertise in a field demonstrates that they (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that allow for retrieval and application (Donovan et al., 1999). They also have inquiry procedures available that help them solve new problems efficiently and effectively. Their extensive and well-organized bodies of knowledge affect what they notice and how they organize, represent, and interpret the information in their environments. In turn, this interaction with their environments affects their abilities to remember, reason, and solve prob

lems. For their knowledge to be usable in these ways, it must be connected and organized through important concepts. Experts must know the contexts in which knowledge is applicable and must be able to transfer that knowledge from one

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