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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
of teachers to form study and support groups that meet on a regular basis (during the school day if at all possible). Small study groups not only provide information; they also provide the mutual support that teachers need as they progress through their concerns. The collegiality provided by this community of learners can also enhance teachers’ growth in learning to use inquiry far more rapidly and deeply than if each teacher were doing it alone.
As the new teaching practices begin, teachers will have many concerns about their effectiveness, the amount of work required, and their acceptance by others. Administrators need to assure teachers that they know and support what the teachers are doing. Other teachers also need to hear that administrators are behind the inquiry-based approach. Public expressions of support can reiterate the importance of inquiry in the context of many competing demands for time and attention.
Availability of instructional materials, kits, and equipment. As personal concerns are resolved, many teachers have concerns about making things work (stage of concern number 3). At this point, teachers have many “how to” questions about finding the time for inquiry activities, covering the content, keeping the students on task, having enough equipment, and so on. For example, is the schedule conducive for inquiry-based teaching? Are the periods or teaching blocks long enough to complete most activities in one day? Do instructional units or courses of study incorporate inquiry as the main teaching and learning strategy?
Traditional textbooks and units are often not conducive to inquiry-based teaching. Success is much more likely when the teachers are using materials that have inquiry “built in.” Administrators need to make an effort to see that teachers have such materials. See Chapter 7 for ways to adapt traditional materials to support inquiry-based learning, should this be impossible. Does the school or district emphasize inquiry-oriented materials when approving textbooks and instructional materials? Are the criteria for selection based on standards (national or state) that have a strong inquiry component? Administrators have an