Building Teacher-Scientist Partnerships: Teaching About Energy Through Inquiry


  • Editor's Note: Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elaine Caton and Carol Brewer, Division of Biological Sciences, The University of Montana; Fletcher Brown, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, The University of Montana.

  • This research was conducted with support from the US Department of Energy during workshops sponsored by the Montana Organization for Research in Energy and The University of Montana. We thank the energy scientists and engineers from around Montana who participated in the Teaching About Energy Through Inquiry Workshops and, especially, the teachers who provided us with information and access to their classrooms. We also acknowledge the expert assistance of J. Berkey, J. Bromenshenk, J. Gill, S. Nadasi, C. Snetsinger, T. Thomas, and M. Yokim.

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This study evaluated the effectiveness of teacher-scientist partnerships for increasing the use. of inquiry in precollege classrooms. It assessed the influence of the Teaching About Energy Through Inquiry Institutes for middle and high school teachers and energy scientists on participants' attitudes about science and science education, use of inquiry instructional techniques, and student attitudes about their classroom environments. Participant surveys, institute and classroom observations, lesson plans, and interviews indicated increased appreciation for inquiry, greater confidence in teaching using inquiry, and greater use of inquiry in the classroom. Student surveys and classroom observations pointed to higher levels of student satisfaction and less friction among classmates during inquiry-based investigations implemented after the institutes. Moreover, scientist partners reported increased familiarity with principles of science education and best teaching practice, which are essential skills and knowledge for disseminating results of scientific research to nonscientific audiences, as well as their own students. These results suggest that collaborations between teachers and research scientists can positively affect the environment for learning science in precollege and college classes. Successful collaborations are most likely to occur when equal status for teachers and scientists in the partnership is stressed and partners have the opportunity to explore inquiry-based curricula together.