Inquiry teaching in primary science : a phenomenographic study

Ireland, Joseph Ernest (2011) Inquiry teaching in primary science : a phenomenographic study. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In spite of having a long history in education, inquiry teaching (the teaching in ways that foster inquiry based learning in students) in science education is still a highly problematic issue. However, before teacher educators can hope to effectively influence teacher implementation of inquiry teaching in the science classroom, educators need to understand teachers’ current conceptions of inquiry teaching. This study describes the qualitatively different ways in which 20 primary school teachers experienced inquiry teaching in science education. A phenomenographic approach was adopted and data sourced from interviews of these teachers. The three categories of experiences that emerged from this study were; Student Centred Experiences (Category 1), Teacher Generated Problems (Category 2), and Student Generated Questions (Category 3). In Category 1 teachers structure their teaching around students sensory experiences, expecting that students will see, hear, feel and do interesting things that will focus their attention, have them asking science questions, and improve their engagement in learning. In Category 2 teachers structure their teaching around a given problem they have designed and that the students are required to solve. In Category 3 teachers structure their teaching around helping students to ask and answer their own questions about phenomena. These categories describe a hierarchy with the Student Generated Questions Category as the most inclusive. These categories were contrasted with contemporary educational theory, and it was found that when given the chance to voice their own conceptions without such comparison teachers speak of inquiry teaching in only one of the three categories mentioned. These results also help inform our theoretical understanding of teacher conceptions of inquiry teaching. Knowing what teachers actually experience as inquiry teaching, as opposed to understand theoretically, is a valuable contribution to the literature. This knowledge provides a valuable contribution to educational theory, which helps policy, curriculum development, and the practicing primary school teachers to more fully understand and implement the best educative practices in their daily work. Having teachers experience the qualitatively different ways of experiencing inquiry teaching uncovered in this study is expected to help teachers to move towards a more student-centred, authentic inquiry outcome for their students and themselves. Going beyond this to challenge teacher epistemological beliefs regarding the source of knowledge may also assist them in developing more informed notions of the nature of science and of scientific inquiry during professional development opportunities. The development of scientific literacy in students, a high priority for governments worldwide, will only to benefit from these initiatives.

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ID Code: 45772
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Watters, James, Brownlee, Joanne, & Lupton, Mandy
Keywords: science education, inquiry learning, inquiry teaching, phenomenography, conceptions of teaching
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 07 Sep 2011 04:32
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2011 04:32

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