environmental issues (from the life science and science in personal and social perspectives standards).

These vignettes — each of which is a composite of classroom experiences — provide many opportunities to reflect on the complexity inherent in classroom teaching. In each, inquiry serves both as an outcome and as a means of learning. Different teachers pursue multiple outcomes depending on the nature of the lesson and the teacher’s intentions. Analyses of these examples demonstrate how learning outcomes, the essential features of classroom inquiry, and learning models fit together in real classrooms.

The vignettes can be read in any order, depending on a reader’s interest. However, each vignette should be read in the context of the following three questions:

  • What are the outcomes that the teacher is striving to achieve?

  • How are the five essential features of classroom inquiry incorporated into students’ learning experiences?

  • What is the teacher’s instructional model, and what does he or she do to help students achieve the desired outcomes?

Discussions following each vignette address these three questions.


Ms. Flores’s third-grade class was engaged in a field study in a vacant lot near the school. In teams of three, the students had measured off a square meter and marked it with popsicle sticks and string. The purpose of the study was to recognize the diversity of organisms that occupy the same environment and understand how that environment meets all of their needs.

During the investigation several students found earthworms in their square meter and became fascinated with earthworm behavior. Some of the other students wanted to know why they did not find earthworms in their study areas. Others wanted to know why the worms were different sizes. One student suggested that worms “liked” to live near some kind of plants and not others, since when she and her dad went fishing they always dug for worms where there was grass.

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