Publication Date

2012

Abstract

This study explored practicing elementary school teacher’s conceptions of teaching in ways that foster inquiry-based learning in the science curriculum (inquiry teaching). The advocacy for inquiry-based learning in contemporary curricula assumes the principle that students learn in their own way by drawing on direct experience fostered by the teacher. That students should be able to discover answers themselves through active engagement with new experiences was central to the thinking of eminent educators such as Pestalozzi, Dewey and Montessori. However, even after many years of research and practice, inquiry learning as a referent for teaching still struggles to find expression in the average teachers’ pedagogy. This study drew on interview data from 20 elementary teachers. A phenomenographic analysis revealed three conceptions of teaching for inquiry learning in science in the elementary years of schooling: (a) The Experience-centered conception where teachers focused on providing interesting sensory experiences to students; (b) The Problem-centered conception where teachers focused on engaging students with challenging problems; and (c) The Question-centered conception where teachers focused on helping students to ask and answer their own questions. Understanding teachers’ conceptions has implications for both the enactment of inquiry teaching in the classroom as well as the uptake of new teaching behaviors during professional development, with enhanced outcomes for engaging students in Science.

Document Type

Journal Article

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