Is inquiry possible in light of accountability?: A quantitative comparison of the relative effectiveness of guided inquiry and verification laboratory instruction

Authors

  • Margaret R. Blanchard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, College of Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
    • Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, College of Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
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  • Sherry A. Southerland,

    1. School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
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  • Jason W. Osborne,

    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Counselor Education, College of Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
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  • Victor D. Sampson,

    1. School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
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  • Leonard A. Annetta,

    1. Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, College of Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
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  • Ellen M. Granger

    1. Department of Biological Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
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  • MURMSI is a statewide, multiyear research and development initiative designed to measurably improve teaching and learning in reading, mathematics and science in Florida's K-12 schools with a special emphasis on students considered at-risk due to economic or other conditions.

Abstract

In this quantitative study, we compare the efficacy of Level 2, guided inquiry–based instruction to more traditional, verification laboratory instruction in supporting student performance on a standardized measure of knowledge of content, procedure, and nature of science. Our sample included 1,700 students placed in the classrooms of 12 middle school and 12 high school science teachers. The instruction for both groups included a week long, laboratory-based, forensics unit. Students were given pre-, post-, and delayed posttests, the results of which were analyzed through a Hierarchical Linear Model (HLM) using students' scores, teacher, level of school, Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) scores, and school socioeconomic status. Overall, compared to students in traditional sections, students who participated in an inquiry-based laboratory unit showed significantly higher posttest scores; had the higher scores, more growth, and long-term retention at both the high school and middle school levels, if their teacher had stronger implementation of inquiry methods (as measured by RTOP scores); and tended to have better outcomes than those who learned through traditional methods, regardless of level of poverty in the school. Our findings suggest that Level 2 inquiry can be an effective teaching approach to support student learning as measured through standardized assessments. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed94:577–616, 2010

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