Open Guided Inquiry Laboratory in Physics Teacher Education

Apr. 03, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 24, Issue 3, April 2013, p. 449-474.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study has investigated the use of an open guided inquiry laboratory course in which a group of pre-service teachers planned and implemented practical work for school purposes.
The authors posed the following research question:
What do Pre-service Teachers Express to have Learned When Participating in an Open Guided Inquiry Laboratory Course?

A total of 32 pre-service teachers participated in this study during their physics teacher education studies.
Nineteen of them had mathematics as their major subject, while nine were physics majors, and four had some other major subject.
The participants work in an open guided inquiry context where they can set the goals to be reached and select the methods to be used when they teach particular important concepts of a selected topic to their peers.
Each participant wrote a reflective essay after completing the course, and three pre-service teachers were interviewed four times during the course.


The results show that peer discussions about content and instructional decisions within active designing teaching sequences have enabled the participants to become aware of several aspects of a physics teacher’s teacher knowledge.
The pre-service teachers expressed learning related to their misconceptions and content knowledge, in transforming knowledge for teaching purposes, in understanding the possibilities of practical work, and in the positive changes in their attitudes to using practical work in teaching.

Furthermore, the pre-service teachers who participated in this project suggested that they had learnt subject matter knowledge during the Course of Laboratory Practice for Physics Teachers (CLP).
The open guided inquiry laboratory course offered opportunities for discussing their understanding of physics concepts in the course of their collaborative planning and implementing teaching units.
The pre-service teachers also became aware of subject-specific conceptions and learning difficulties.

By offering preservice teachers opportunities to plan and implement practical work, they are supported in gaining an understanding of the possibilities and challenges involved in the process of transforming content knowledge for teaching purposes.
This helps them to understand the challenging work of a teacher who has to take students’ background and pre-knowledge into account in the classroom while still leaving space for students’ own ideas and thinking.

According to the learning that the research participants expressed to have undergone, we can state that the two components of their PCK that they mentioned were developing in the course of the CLP.
Two thirds of the research participants reported learning about the possibilities of practical work.
Some of them explained generally about inductive and deductive processes which could be used in different ways in teaching.
In consequence, the authors would claim that CLP develops pre-service teachers’ understanding of the nature of science and provides some of the basic ideas of scientific thinking that can be regarded as part of teacher knowledge and especially as part of content knowledge.
Finally, a change in some participants’ attitudes to the use of practical work was noted.
An open guided inquiry laboratory course promoted the acquisition of positive attitudes to the use of inquiry in teaching for a majority of the research participants.

In light of the results, the authors would warmly suggest including the early use of the open guided inquiry laboratory, as part of the bachelor degree studies, for preservice physics teachers. They are willing to encourage the teacher educators to attempt to use high-level inquiry in the teacher education that they provide since the results can be rewarding when the course format is refined to work as a part of the program.

Updated: May. 25, 2014