Practicing What We Teach: A Self-Study in Implementing an Inquiry-Based Curriculum in a Middle Grades Classroom

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(1), p.53–78 (February, 2011). 

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the self study of Charles, a science teacher educator returned to teaching adolescents in a public school located in a rural area in the southeastern United States.
Charles specifically wanted to explore the nature of inquiry and associated scientific practices espoused in a new middle grades science curriculum.

The authors examined his beliefs and his abilities in practice by gaining first-hand, experiential knowledge through his efforts to implement a reform-based curriculum.
The authors addressed to the following question: What new personal practical knowledge on inquiry and its associated scientific practices will emerge from Charles’ teaching experience with this curriculum?

The Teacher

Charles was a science teacher educator of 8 years.
Charles began his self-study having had 9 years of science teaching experience.
He held a current teaching certificate in general science, grades 7–12.

The authors used multiple sources of evidence to document and interpret Charles’ self-study into inquiry teaching. These sources included interviews, participant journal, lesson plans/teaching artifacts, videotaped lessons, and field notes.


Earlier in his teaching career, in a time prior to high-stakes testing, Charles more loosely defined curriculum to include the projects and resulting products that he and students generated over time together.
His new beliefs now favor a reform-based curricula being pre-packaged to a degree, but also largely dependent upon choice or what the teacher and students might choose to develop together at the appropriate moment.
Furthermore, Charles now believes that the teacher should use a varied teaching approach even in using inquiry that supported ongoing student interest and engagement in the learning process.

Implications for Science Teacher Education

This teaching experience provided Charles a new perspective on his role in teaching and mentoring preservice and inservice teachers in the use of prescribed science curricula in middle grades.
The authors conclude that teachers must seek creative and varied ways for their students to learn science via relevant experiences that connect to student interests, utilizing more open forms of inquiry where appropriate.
Furthermore, programmed instruction that heavily utilizes scientific inquiry should be viewed as a guide or general framework in which the professional educator must work in response to the needs of the learners.
Finally, teacher education is most informed when teacher educators' practices are driven by participation in schools, grappling with issues that emerge and their efforts to resolve them.

Updated: Sep. 09, 2012