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Science Laboratory Instruction: Summary of Findings and Implications from Four Companion Studies...continued:

What teacher behaviors encourage student research?

The teacher behavior associated with students locating proper protocols for an activity might fall under the heading "Encourages Student Research." Such a teacher behavior would be evidence of that teacher's "inquiry approach" to teaching. In this study, several verbal and non-verbal teacher behaviors were inventoried using the Modified Reformed Science Teacher Behavior Inventory (MR-STBI). These behaviors included, but were not limited to:

  • the use of lower and higher level divergent questions,
  • group-centered cooperative group activities,
  • activities designed to assist student to reevaluate scientific (mis)conceptions,
  • laboratory results that are integrated with theories from other disciplines,
  • teacher generated discussion related to the laboratory observations,
  • use of collected data as a primary source of post laboratory student/teacher interactions,
  • teacher's use of process terminology (such as classify, analyze, predict, create),
  • teachers encouraging students to engage in meaningful discussion with each other,
  • teachers encouraging clarification of students' initial responses,
  • teachers supervision of laboratory activities by moving from group to group.

Does in-service assist teachers in devolping these behaviors?

The study reported in this article deals with The Impact of Longer Term Intervention on Reforming Science Teachers' Approaches to Science Instruction. Twenty-four urban middle and high school science teachers were inserviced for 13 weeks "in a science methodology course that offered experience in using the findings from laboratory investigations as the driving force for further science instruction." [p3] According to the researchers, this technique was modeled by the teachers of the inservice:

"Teachers…experienced modeled lower-level inquiry-oriented instruction emphasizing shorter pre-laboratory session in which limited lecturing and no definition of terms was included, as well as longer post-laboratory activities that emphasized the use of student data and observation to drive further instruction." [p4]

After completing the course, inserviced teachers were videotaped and analyzed using the MR-STBI inventory described earlier. Analysis compared each teacher' behaviors to models of "traditional" and "reformed" instructional strategies. Interviews were conducted to "discern possible reasons why individual teachers could or could not adapt to this reformed approach to instruction." [p3]

Part of the analysis by the researchers included having inserviced teachers place themselves on a "level of inquiry" scale. Several "levels of discovery" or levels of openness in instruction were described by Schwab in 1962. "The degree of openness is based on the extent to which teachers provide (1) the problems, (2) the ways and means of addressing the problems, and (3) the answer to the problems." [p2] The amount of teacher intervention is inversely proportional to the amount of "discovery" by the students.

What is the relationship between teacher intervention and student "discovery"?

Levels of Inquiry Oriented Instruction
Level of
Inquiry
Proposed Problem or Issue to be Explored
Addresses or Plans Procedure to be Used
Explores or Carries Out Procedure
Supplies Answers or Conclusions
0
By Teacher
By Teacher
By Teacher
By Teacher
1
By Teacher
By Teacher
By Teacher
By Students
2
By Teacher
By Teacher
By Students
By Students
3
By Teacher
By Students
By Students
By Students
4
By Students
By Students
By Students
By Students

Table 1. Revised from Schwab by Sutman (1995)

Take a look at Table 1. At which level of inquiry do your students fall? If you are a "typical" teacher, you can point times in your classes when you allow students to experience inquiry at the "3" [or maybe "4"] level. If we are honest, however, most of us admit that the majority of our "science," and the "science" of our students, is experienced in the "0" - "2" range on the scale. I suspect "2" is the norm in most classrooms of teachers reading this commentary-it generally describes the "cookbook" approach common in most high school curricula.


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