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Keywords:

  • procedural knowledge;
  • learning in the laboratory;
  • professional development;
  • question-asking

Abstract

Inquiry is essentially a process in which research questions are asked and an attempt is made to find the answers. However, the formulation of operational research questions of the sort used in authentic scientific inquiry is not a trivial task. Here, we set out to explore the possible influence of separating the research question from the laboratory techniques used to try and answer this question on teachers' understanding of laboratory techniques and their ability to formulate research questions. We conducted a laboratory course in microbiology in which the laboratory techniques were presented in an explicit and generalized manner, in the context of specific research questions. During the course, teachers' understanding of laboratory techniques improved as reflected in their answers to exercises given throughout. In addition, teachers' ability to ask research questions, analyzed using Dillon's classification of research questions, also improved. When reflecting upon the course, some teachers attributed the change in their ability to ask research questions to their increased knowledge of techniques, whereas others did not. We conclude that to facilitate research-question-asking skills among teachers, they should be provided with knowledge of the relevant laboratory techniques in an explicit fashion. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 49: 1296–1320, 2012