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Assessing Dimensions of Inquiry Practice by Middle School Science Teachers Engaged in a Professional Development Program

Abstract

"Inquiry-based teaching promotes students' engagement in problem-solving and investigation as they learn science concepts. Current practice in science teacher education promotes the use of inquiry in the teaching of science. However, the literature suggests that many science teachers hold incomplete or incorrect conceptions of inquiry. Teachers, therefore, may believe they are providing more inquiry experiences than they are, reducing the positive impact of inquiry on science interest and skills. Given the prominence of inquiry in professional development experiences, educational evaluators need strong tools to detect intended use in the classroom. The current study focuses on the validity of assessments developed for evaluating teachers' use of inquiry strategies and classroom orientations. We explored the relationships between self-reported inquiry strategy use, preferences for inquiry, knowledge of inquiry practices, and related pedagogical content knowledge. Finally, we contrasted students' and teachers' reports of the levels of inquiry-based teaching in the classroom. Self-reports of inquiry use, especially one specific to the 5E instructional model, were useful, but should be interpreted with caution. Teachers tended to self-report higher levels of inquiry strategy use than their students perceived. Further, there were no significant correlations between either knowledge of inquiry practices or PCK and self-reported inquiry strategy use."

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