College science teachers' views of classroom inquiry

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  • This paper was edited by former Editor Nancy W. Brickhouse

Abstract

The purposes of this study were to (a) gain an understanding of the views of inquiry held by faculty members involved in undergraduate science teaching and (b) describe the challenges, constraints, and opportunities that they perceived in designing and teaching inquiry-based laboratories. Participants included 19 college professors, representing both life and physical science disciplines, from (a) 2-year community college, (b) small, private nonprofit liberal arts college, (c) public master's granting university, and (d) public doctoral/research extensive university. We collected data through semistructured interviews and applied an iterative data analysis process. College science faculty members held a “full and open inquiry” view, seeing classroom inquiry as time consuming, unstructured, and student directed. They believed that inquiry was more appropriate for upper level science majors than for introductory or nonscience majors. Although faculty members valued inquiry, they perceived limitations of time, class size, student motivation, and student ability. These limitations, coupled with their view of inquiry, constrained them from implementing inquiry-based laboratories. Our proposed inquiry continuum represents a broader view of inquiry that recognizes the interaction between two dimensions of inquiry: (a) the degree of inquiry and (b) the level of student directedness, and provides for a range of inquiry-based classroom activities. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed90:784–802, 2006

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