CAREER: Inquiry Teaching and Learning: Connecting Research and Practice

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The research questions which guided this longitudinal case study were: 1) What are teachers’ beliefs about inquiry-based instruction in diverse settings? 2) Why do teachers choose to use inquiry based instruction? 3) How do teachers implement inquiry instruction in diverse settings? and 4) Do teachers use a variety of science reformed-based classroom instructional practices?


This project has two major data collection components: survey data of approximately 350 (K-8) urban teachers and longitudinal classroom observation data of five (5) purposely selected K-8 teachers. Teachers selected to participate in this longitudinal case studies met the following criteria: 1) they regularly taught science ( elementary teachers at least two to three times per week); 2) their teacher interview supported that they could describe two or more science projects that would be considered either guided or open inquiry and their stated belief in inquiry instruction could be determined; 3) the principal interview supported that the teacher used inquiry practices and other science reform practices in their teaching; 4) completion of an *IPBS (Inquiry Practices Beliefs Survey) that showed that they regularly used science research processes; and 5) the teacher taught in an urban school that had 50% or more of students on the free and reduced lunch program. *IPBS developed as part of this project.

Research Design: 

This is a longitudinal study designed to generate descriptive [case study, observational] evidence. This project collects original data using diaries/journals/records kept by study subjects; observation [personal, videographic]; and survey research [on-line self-completed questionnaires, structured telephone and in-person interviews].

The main data collection method is classroom observations. An Inquiry Practices Beliefs Survey (I-PBS) was validated during this research and it consists of 12 items focused on general and advanced inquiry practices. An open ended response section was also developed and is included as part of the completed survey.

The field notes, video and audio tapes of classroom instruction practices are analyzed line-by-line after being coded using NVIVO qualitative software. Themes and patterns are being identified across research classrooms for models of inquiry, challenges to its implementation and what facilitates its use.


The developed survey instrument, “Inquiry-Practices Beliefs Survey” (I-PBS) was administered to all K-8 teachers in a large urban school district. It was one of several methods used to select the five teachers for the longitudinal case studies. Of the 272 completed surveys, 230 teachers responded to all 12 inquiry questions and these scores were analyzed for reliability and construct validity evidence. Specifically, exploratory factor analysis resulted in a two-factor solution explaining 41% of the variance. The first factor, ‘general inquiry practices,’ includes five items such as “I am a facilitator of students’ learning,” and “I use students’ interests as a guide when constructing my lessons.” The second factor, ‘advanced inquiry practices,’ includes seven items such as, “I have students develop their own hypothesis,” and “I have students design their own experiments.” Cronbach’s alpha suggests moderate to strong evidence of internal consistency reliability of the scores produced from the two scales with a coefficient of .592 for ‘general inquiry practices,’ and .846 for ‘advanced inquiry practices. The analysis of the survey items showed that consistently teachers reported that they provided student-centered classrooms and facilitated students’ interests in their own learning; yet, they reported seldom using advanced inquiry practices. These findings were consistent with classroom observation data of the five case studies teachers.

The longitudinal case studies data are currently being analyzed. There are a few findings that have been confirmed. In the longitudinal classroom case studies, observations of teachers’ classroom practices closely resembled teachers’ responses about their beliefs about their inquiry practices as reported by the I-PBS. Teachers did not commonly have student’s complete full inquiry from beginning to end where they develop their own question, design their own experiments and come up with their own research design. Full inquiry was rarely used across all five classrooms. When full inquiry was observed it most often occurred as a teacher required out-side of classroom project such as science fair. "Partial inquiry” experiences as described in the National Science Education Standards (1996) are “where students developed abilities and understanding of selected aspects of the inquiry process” which was an often observed practice across all five (5) classrooms and occurred throughout the school year. Longitudinal research data findings are still being analyzed and future findings for both individual classrooms and across classroom sites will be reported.

Publications & Presentations: 

Jeanpierre, B. (2006.) What teachers report about their inquiry practices. The Journal of Elementary Science Education, 18(1), 57-68.

Jeanpierre, B., & Lewis, N. (2007). The story of one inductee: Becoming a teacher. The Middle School Journal, 38(3), 19-24.

Jeanpierre, B. (2007). Becoming an urban middle school science teacher. The Journal of Elementary Science Education, 19(1).

Other Products: 

No project products are planned however the survey instrument was a reliable instrument to support teacher selection for this project and has promise for broader use in science education research community.