Can Inquiry and Reflection be Contagious? Science Teachers, Students, and Action Research

Dec. 10, 2010

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 21, Number 8, 953-970. (December, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper documents and describes three case studies of science teachers who discovered ways to engage their students in scientific inquiry and transform their teaching practices through engaging in an expanded model of the action research process.

The authors documented the teachers’ journeys as practitioner researchers.
The authors kept weekly journals of their observations and reflections on their activities for 14 weeks. The teachers kept their own field notes, videotaped their teaching practice during the semester, engaged in weekly peer group’s collaborative dialogue sessions, collaborate with students, and consult with other sources to identify goals for improving their teaching practices.


The science teachers presented in these case studies wanted to be effective teachers who engaged their students in the learning of science. However, all the three teachers initially struggled to break the mold of textbook and teacher centered instruction for a variety of reasons. Interestingly, in each of the cases, participation in this action research model provided opportunities for self and collaborative critical reflection that challenged each of the teacher’s traditional methods.

Collaboration with peers and students was crucial at each stage of the action research process for these science teachers. In the cases of these 3 teachers, their students’ roles in science class changed from that of passive observers and note-takers to that of active participants in the processes of inquiry. The changes in the students’ roles paralleled the changes the teachers themselves were undergoing while participating in the action research process.

The authors found that teachers changed how they regarded their students at the same time as they were beginning to see themselves differently as practitioners. Teachers engaged in inquiry are in turn likely to engage their students in inquiry.


The authors found that intersection of two key features of our model emerges as catalysts for change: the use of video and the act of collaborative reflection.

Video is crucial at each stage in the process, since video serves as an object of reflection.
The authors also identified how collaborative reflection plays an instrumental role in transforming practice through their action research model. Through the case studies, the authors found as peers watch each other’s teaching on video, they begin to question one another’s pedagogical approaches, suggest alternative modes of instruction, and help one another to identify what is working and what is not. As a result of the viewing process, teachers form goals for action research that are concretely based upon practices enacted in their own classrooms. As teachers reconsider their daily practices, they begin to change them and try new techniques.

When used jointly in a single process, video and collaborative reflection allow teachers to honestly inquire into their own daily classroom practices and make their own development as practitioners their focus for research.

Updated: May. 19, 2011