Development of Instruments to Assess Teacher and Student Perceptions of Inquiry Experiences in Science Classrooms

From Section:
Assessment & Evaluation
Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21(1):13–30. ( February, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study describes the development of two instruments, the Principles of Scientific Inquiry- Teacher (PSI-T) and the Principles of Scientific Inquiry-Student (PSI-S), to investigate the extent to which students are engaged in scientific inquiry.

As a result of the instrument development process employed, each finalized instrument consisted of 20-items separated into five categories.

Category and Item Pool Development

Each category of the PSI instruments was designed to measure teacher and student perceptions of the frequency of occurrence of the five principles of scientific inquiry outlined by the National Research Council (NRC) (2005). These five principles are (a) framing research questions, (b) designing investigations, (c) conducting investigations, (d) collecting data, and (e) drawing conclusions.

Each of the categories of the instrument is further described as follows:
1. Framing research questions—This category focuses on the extent to which students are responsible for framing their own research questions during investigations.

2. Designing investigations—This category focuses on the extent to which students are responsible for designing their own procedures for conducting investigations.

3. Conducting investigations—This category focuses on the extent to which students are responsible for conducting or carrying out the procedures.

4. Collecting data—This category focuses on the extent to which students are responsible for making decisions about data collection during investigations.

5. Drawing conclusion—This category focuses on the extent to which students are responsible for drawing conclusions during investigations.


The PSI-T was administered to a convenience sample of 88 secondary science teachers from one western state. Middle and high school, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth Science teachers anonymously responded to a statewide request to complete the instrument. The PSI-S was administered to a convenience sample of 130 secondary science students in the same western state. The students anonymously completed the instrument in one school district located in close proximity to the lead researcher. These students were drawn from multiple sections of three science teachers’ classes.

Both instruments were found to be internally consistent, with high reliability estimates.
Factor analysis showed two factors for each instrument that, while not clustering the items into the five categories, did show item clustering that is consistent with research literature about students’ engagement in inquiry experiences.


These instruments are seen as valuable professional development tools for assessing teachers progress in using scientific inquiry as an instructional strategy. Details about specific principles of scientific inquiry that are and are not occurring can inform professional developers as they determine areas of focus when working with teachers. They can also inform researchers as they analyze how differences in the extent to which principles are occurring influence student learning outcomes.

These two instruments are shared here in the hopes that they can be used in concert with other tools, such as the RTOP, to assess the extent to which students are being afforded opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry in ways consistent with the calls in reform documents.

National Research Council (NRC). (2005). America’s lab report: Investigations in high school science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Updated: Mar. 28, 2020
Attitudes of teachers | Evaluation methods | Science education | Science inquiry | Student attitudes | Teaching methods