In the following vignette, Steve, a high school physics teacher, reflects on the three-year professional development program that led to his Master of Arts in Teaching Integrated Sciences. His story raises important issues about teachers’ motivations, values, understandings, and experiences as they learn about inquiry and about how to teach science using inquiry.
A Teacher Discusses Professional Development for Inquiry-Based Teaching: Steve’s Story
When I began my three-year masters program, I had several reservations about teaching through inquiry. I thought it would require more time than my typical lecture and laboratory teaching. I also thought it would conflict with the demand for “coverage” of science content. And I didn’t want to leave my “comfort zone” where my students and I generally knew what was expected.
At the same time, I felt that I was not exposing my students to enough of the important and interesting ideas of physics. I had known for years, based on the questions I asked on tests and during classes, that my students weren’t retaining much of anything I “taught.” They seemed to know a lot and understand very little. It was obvious to me that the students were memorizing the terms and equations only long enough to answer questions on a test and then the information vanished.
I gained a number of insights as I tried and refined various methods introduced during my masters program. The program consisted of six-week full-time summer institutes and seminars during the academic year. My first important insight occurred when I was involved in a long-term inquiry at the beginning of the first summer. Being