Exploring Exemplary Elementary Teachers’ Conceptions and Implementation of Inquiry Science

Apr. 02, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 24, Issue 3, April 2013, p. 573-588.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study was an exploration of the conceptions of inquiry science held by exemplary elementary teachers.
The study explored the ideas, understandings, and the recommendations for teaching inquiry science of exemplary elementary teachers and the ways that they use inquiry science in their classrooms.

The research questions driving this study were as follows:
1. What are exemplary elementary teachers’ conceptions of inquiry science and how were these developed?
2. How do exemplary elementary teachers use inquiry science teaching in their classrooms?
3. What recommendations do exemplary teachers have for their peers as they implement inquiry science?

The teachers were considered exemplary in terms of teaching inquiry science if the teacher was observed conducting a lesson or series of lessons where student groups were allowed to generate questions to investigate, design an investigation, collect data, and generate explanations.
The participants were six exemplary elementary teachers represented two different school districts; two teachers taught 4th grade and four taught 5th grade.
All the teachers had been teaching for at least 5 years and had taught science for all the years they had been in the classroom.

Data were collected through four focus group sessions, classroom observations, surveys and interviews.


The six exemplary teachers held ideas about inquiry as ‘‘finding things out’’ and all described themselves as having been children who explored and experimented with the world around them.
These teachers knew the thrill of ‘‘finding things out’’ on their own and wanted to provide opportunities where their students could experience this thrill.
These characteristics were those that the teachers felt were crucial to encourage in their own students and their classrooms were environments for exploration, problem solving, and independent thinking.

The teachers also provided information about successful classroom environments and attitudes that they use to achieve strong inquiry science learning.
They clearly see teaching science through inquiry as a way of interacting with the world, a way of finding things out; and finding things out is important to all of them.


This exploratory study demonstrates that the group of teachers participating did rely on their past experiences in inquiry learning to become better teachers of inquiry.
The author also claims that it is also important for teachers to be asked to spend time reflecting on their own personal experiences with ‘‘finding things out’’ and develop their inquiry skills through reflection on practice.
This reflection on the process of inquiry as teachers are involved in inquiry experiences as preservice or in-service teachers may be a strong factor in later classroom use.

The teachers in this group all recommended that when encouraging other teachers to implement inquiry, they need to first recognize its importance, and certainly this will take involving teachers in authentic inquiry experiences as learners so that they will be able to begin to view themselves, as these focus group teachers did, as problem-solvers and experimenters.

Updated: May. 25, 2014