This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Teacher Determinants and Student Outcomes of Inquiry Use in a Nanoscience Intervention




Cooper, Jessica

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Since the release of the new science education standards, there has been a greater emphasis on incorporating inquiry-based teaching in the classroom. The utilization of inquiry methods enables scientists to gain in-depth knowledge of specific domains through analysis, interpretation and evaluation. Inquiry-based instruction incorporates these practices into classroom instruction allowing students to develop these skills and craft conclusions based on research and data. In response to this call for inquiry-based teaching, several federally funded initiatives have been introduced to support teacher need to adapt curriculum materials to foster student learning through inquiry-based practice (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). The intervention from which this study is based is one of such initiatives. The intent behind this initiative is to raise both student and teacher knowledge and attitudes towards science through the use of inquiry based modules in the classroom. However assumptions related to this project include: teachers know what is meant by inquiry, teachers know how to implement inquiry in the classroom, and the modules are, in fact, inquiry based. Thus, the purpose of this study is to: a) examine the extent to which teachers promote inquiry through classroom instruction and assignments; b) how this instruction impacts student achievement, and c) examine the effects of teacher beliefs and pedagogical content knowledge on the use of inquiry-based instruction. The findings indicate that these science teachers do understand the importance of science and they do place a high value on using inquiry strategies to facilitate student learning. However, there are some misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the enactment of inquiry practices in the classroom. Although teachers in this study believe they are implementing these strategies during their lessons, a close examination of lesson plans and classroom observations indicated a narrow use of inquiry in the classroom. Teachers may believe they are conducting inquiry-based lessons, however they are lacking key components. Since the use of inquiry is pinnacle to the intervention, it is critical that teachers use these methods successfully in order to implement modules with fidelity.