inquiry-based teaching and learning occurs when students’ experiences are described by the left-hand column in Table 2-6. However, students rarely have the abilities to begin here. They first have to learn to ask and evaluate questions that can be investigated, what the difference is between evidence and opinion, how to develop a defensible explanation, and so on. A more structured type of teaching develops students’ abilities to inquire. It helps them learn how to determine what counts. The degree to which teachers structure what students do is sometimes referred to as “guided” versus “open” inquiry. (Note that this distinction has roots in the history recounted earlier in the chapter as Schwab’s three approaches to “labora-

Table 2-6. Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry and Their Variations

Essential Feature





1. Learner engages in scientifically oriented questions

Learner poses a question

Learner selects among questions, poses new questions

Learner sharpens or clarifies question provided by teacher, materials, or other source

Learner engages in question provided by teacher, materials, or other source

2. Learner gives priority to evidence in responding to questions

Learner determines what constitutes evidence and collects it

Learner directed to collect certain data

Learner given data and asked to analyze

Learner given data and told how to analyze

3. Learner formulate explanations from evidence

Learner formulates explanation after summarizing evidence

Learner guided in process of formulating explanations from evidence

Learner given possible ways to use evidence to formulate explanation

Learner provided with evidence and how to use evidence to formulate explanation

4. Learner connects explanations to scientific knowledge

Learner independently examines other resources and forms the links to explanations

Learner directed toward areas and sources of scientific knowledge

Learner given possible connections


5. Learner communicates and justifies explanations

Learner forms reasonable and logical argument to communicate explanations

Learner coached in development of communication

Learner provided broad guidelines to use sharpen communication

Learner given steps and procedures for communication

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