| Pedagogy | Literature |Mathematics | Science | Notes & Quotes | Glossaries | Home | Web Links |


book cover imageExcellent Monograph

FOUNDATIONS: A monograph for professionals in science, mathematics, and technology education
Inquiry Thoughts, Views, and Strategies for the K-5 Classroom

What is inquiry?

Educators refer to inquiry in three general ways - presentation with examples

What is inquiry learning?

Inquiry learning or instructional methodology - Refers to an instructional model which involves a series of questions asked of students in a manner that facilitates the development of understanding, skill, and dispositions to become literate in an area of study. This includes areas in addition to science

What is scientific inquiry?

Scientific inquiry is any of the diverse ways people study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their observation. The different ways of investigation and the skills used in asking questions, making observations, and reasoning with evidence to create explanations.Scientific investigation is usually thought of as experimental investigation with controlled variables and manipulated variables in an attempt to eliminate or identify causal variables for the purpose of understanding the natural world. However, scientific investigations can also include ethnographic or descriptive investigations where observations are collected with the purpose of better understanding the properties and interactions of objects, events, or related objects. Another type of investigation is the collection of information to sort and group the information by different properties with the purpose of identifying relationships and defining properties, objects, events, and related objects. See also - scientific inquiry unpacked with its related processes.

What is an inquiry science lesson?

Inquiry science lessons refer to activities where students use scientific inquiry to learn science ideas during a lesson. The lesson usually follows a process where students are either given questions or create their own questions, collect observational information to use to create reasonable explains of the outcomes, or answers to the questions. While the complexity of this procedure can vary according to the complexity of ideas to investigate or the ability of the investigator, all scientific investigations have observational evidence as the basis of any explanation.

The teacher and/or student can decide the step or steps of the investigation. Depending on who makes the decisions at each step of an investigation is one way of measuring student empowerment. If the teacher makes all the decisions, it is low student empowerment and if the student makes all the decisions, it would be high student empowerment. A mixture of both is required for ultimate gain. A chart can be made to illustrate the variety of types of inquiry lessons from low to high student empowerment Another chart using the same framework can have examples of different lessons to show actual lessons with low to high student empowerment.

Lab Forms

Different procedures for scientific investigations are sometimes represented in different lab forms that are often provided by teachers for investigations.

The use of forms is helpful to facilitate students' understanding of steps and ways of thinking when doing scientific inquiry. However, care should be taken to convince students that: 1. there are many ways to conduct scientific inquiry, 2. scientific inquiry is most often conducted as a non linear process, and 3. playing around with materials or ideas is a very good way to conduct scientific inquiry.

A rationalization for the use of procedures or forms would be as a device to assist investigation. To spark ideas for inquiry or to review ideas generated for their comprehensiveness. And most importantly as a communication device. Again, used to review comprehensiveness only now at the conclusion of the investigation as a report creation device. Forms also provide a way to organize information to better report findings as well as assist readers in interpreting the information. Most importantly the forms can be a communication device to provide experimental information for others to replicate and assist in understanding our natural world.

Primary sample forms


Middle School

Sample Science Inquiry Plans

Check Sheets, Scoring Guides/Rubrics for Student assessment

Assessment of an Inquiry Classroom Community

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©