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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
Providing instructional materials, kits, and equipment
Communication with parents and the public
Student assessment procedures aligned with the outcomes of inquiry
Promoting inquiry and problem solving in other subject areas
Teacher evaluation consistent with inquiry teaching
There is no magic formula or recipe to follow in incorporating inquiry into classrooms and schools. Success requires creativity and sensitivity to a particular context and set of goals.
Providing leadership and support for inquiry-based teaching and learning requires a working knowledge of the topic. It will be necessary to interpret and, at times, defend the practice with other administrators, parents, and staff members not engaged in inquiry-based teaching. Comparisons of inquiry as it is carried out by scientist and by students — such as the comparison in Chapter 1 — can begin to build a case for teaching and learning through inquiry.
The short history of inquiry presented in Chapter 2 underscores that it is not a new idea or fad. It is a powerful way to engage with the content of many disciples, not just science. In addition, the research evidence described in Chapter 6 documents some of the benefits students will gain from the experience. Not only will they learn the science they need in a deeper way, but the process of developing the abilities of inquiry will help them “learn how to learn,” a valuable tool for all students.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGEPROCESS
Teaching and learning through inquiry is a new experience for most faculty members, administrators, parents, and students. It therefore requires a significant change in attitude and behavior on the part of all groups. As indicated in the previous section, inquiry has been a part of education for many years but in a form somewhat different than the specific outcomes described in the Standards. For example, inquiry-based teaching is not the same as teaching the processes of science or the “discovery learning” of 25 years ago because it places more emphasis on helping students develop the cognitive abilities scientists use to build scientific knowledge. Even for many teachers who are using kits or programs that claim to be inquiry-based, the approach to inquiry described in this report and in the Standards, if taken seriously, will be a significant change.
Fortunately, an extensive body of knowledge is available about how change can occur effectively in educational settings (Fullan, l991, 1993).