three kinds of problems were noted: technical, political, and cultural (Anderson, 1996). Technical problems included limited teaching abilities, prior commitments (for example, to a textbook), the challenges of assessment, difficulties of group work, the challenges of new teacher roles, the challenges of new student roles, and inadequate in-service education. Political problems included limited in-service education (i.e., not sustained for a sufficient number of years), parental resistance, resistance from principals and superintendents, unresolved conflicts among teachers, lack of resources, and differing judgments about justice and fairness. Cultural problems — possibly the most important because beliefs and values are central to them — included the textbook issue, views of assessment, and the “preparation ethic” (i.e., an overriding commitment to “coverage” because of a perceived need to prepare students for the next level of schooling). In addition to this study’s findings, barriers experienced currently include the widespread attitude that science is not a “basic” and the lack of appropriate instructional materials, both print and hands-on.


How can teachers improve their use of inquiry in science teaching?


Research indicates that teachers have a fairly pragmatic approach to teaching. They tend to focus on what works to involve students or manage their classrooms, rather than on melding theory and practice (Blumenfeld, 1994). Teachers anchor their understanding in classroom events and base their actions on stories and narratives more than on theories and propositional knowledge (Krajcik et al., 1994). Thus, theory, beliefs, values, and understandings are important as teachers acquire an inquiry approach, but teachers should not be expected to address such mental constructs in isolation from their teaching context.

Collaboration can be an important catalyst of change. New understandings develop and new classroom practices emerge when teachers collaborate with peers and experts. Collaboration addresses not only the technical problems of reform but cultural issues as well. As Anderson (1996) says, “Collaborative working relationships among teachers provide a very important context for the re-assessment of educational values and beliefs. In this context — where the focus is the actual work of each teachers’ own students — one’s values and beliefs are encountered at every turn. It is a powerful influence. The reforming teachers in our cases did not do their work in isola-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement