Preparing Teachers for Inquiry-Based Teaching

For students to understand inquiry and use it to learn science, their teachers need to be well-versed in inquiry and inquiry-based methods. Yet most teachers have not had opportunities to learn science through inquiry or to conduct scientific inquiries themselves. Nor do many teachers have the understanding and skills they need to use inquiry thoughtfully and appropriately in their classrooms.

What do teachers need to know and be able to do to use inquiry effectively? What kinds of professional development can help prospective and practicing teachers both develop and use inquiry-based strategies?

The National Science Education Standards — and particularly the standards for the professional development of science teachers — are a useful organizer for these questions. In the context of inquiry, these professional development standards can be organized into four categories:

  • Standard A: Learning Science through Inquiry

  • Standard B: Learning to Teach Science through Inquiry

  • Standard C: Becoming Lifelong “Inquirers”

  • Standard D: Building Professional Development Programs for Inquiry-Based Learning and Teaching

The latter part of this chapter is organized around these four themes. The chapter begins, however, with a broad overview of the role professional development can play in redirecting teaching and learning toward inquiry.

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