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Abstract

The study was designed to investigate the influence of student characteristics and classroom characteristics on students' inquiry skill. The sample consisted of a national stratified random sample of 1955 17-year-olds who were assessed as part of the 1981-1982 national assessment in science. The dependent variable was a 17-item measure of students' inquiry skill. The independent variables were selected from the available data using the Model of Educational Productivity as a guide in the selection of the variables. The first purpose of the study was to test the effectiveness of the Model of Educational Productivity for predicting the inquiry skill of 17-year-olds. The results of this study indicate that this model was capable of accounting for between 24 and 32% of the variance in inquiry skill for the general population of 17-year-olds. More specifically, students' reporting of their general ability alone accounted for between 17 and 22% of the variance. The second question posed by this study asked whether the prediction of inquiry skill differed for males and females. While there was some difference in the contribution of the minor predictors, there was very little difference in the prediction of inquiry skill for males and females using the Model of Education Productivity. The third question posed by this study asked whether the prediction of inquiry skill differed for white and nonwhite students. For nonwhite students, the Model of Educational Productivity accounted for only 18% of the variance in science inquiry skill. Thus, it would appear that there is a great deal that is not known about the factors that contribute to the science inquiry skill of nonwhite students.