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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
opportunity, an obligation, and often the authority to influence the procedures and criteria used. Two recent resources from the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education will be of help in this matter (NRC, 1999a; NRC, 1999b), as will Appendix B.
Nothing interferes with inquiry-based teaching more than lacking an adequate supply of instructional materials. Administrators need to ensure that teachers have appropriate kits, equipment, and supplies, and that consumable supplies are replaced regularly. Is the storage space adequate and secure? Experienced teachers can help find the answers to some of these questions, as can administrators who pay attention to the problems teachers are having.
Only by working through management questions can a teacher construct an image and an understanding of how inquiry-based teaching will benefit his or her students (stage of concern number five). Teachers at this stage will ask hard questions about the effectiveness of their teaching. They often will seek answers from the research and from careful student assessments to assure themselves that they and the approach they are using are effective. Study groups can seek help from local university researchers or district level science education specialists in addressing these concerns. Small action research projects (Miller and Pine, 1990; Holly, 1991; Calhoun, 1994) and examination of student work (Loucks-Horsley et al., 1998) by members of the group could be both motivating and helpful.
Interpreting inquiry-based teaching and learning for parents andother members of the public. Many administrators have learned the hard way that it is much better to be proactive with the community than reactive. Administrators cannot wait until the letters and phone calls start coming in from parents and other members of the public. They need to introduce and explain inquiry to parents whose students are involved. Newsletters, parent meetings, open houses, phone trees, and special invitations to “science nights” are all ways to inform parents that inquiry-based teaching and learning is being used in their child’s class. Administrators need to know and share the advantages of teaching and learning this way and, at the same time, be open about the pitfalls or adjustments that some students will have to make to succeed. Teachers also can be asked to describe what they will do to help.
Building support with the public cannot stop with parents. Local businesses, government agencies and laboratories, museums, professional societies, and so on will be interested in supporting standards-based reform efforts and often can provide resources of materials, kits, scientists as