Date of Award/Publication

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MS in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education

Abstract

This qualitative study began with a desire to explore how science instruction can use student questions as centerpieces of ongoing, student-centered classroom inquiry. This research is supported in part by the principles of the National Research Council, National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, which all purport that inquiry is an effective way to teach science. Subjects included a physical science class of eighth grade students in New York State. The students were involved in a two-week inquiry-based investigation of fossil fuels and energy, and were responsible during this time to meet the requirements of curriculum benchmarks (Appendix A.) The purpose of the study was to determine how we can use student questions to drive instruction more frequently or with more skill, and to identify methods that best support a student-guided inquiry approach. It evolved into a very different study of reflective practice. What began as a quest for information and methods evolved into a reflective journey that has already improved my practice in my classroom, increased my confidence as a teacher, and helped me to consider my future and options for personal and professional growth. When I took the time reflect, I found that my research questions were born out of a lack of confidence. I identified strategies that I currently employ that are effective in managing student-guided inquiry and that are backed by the literature, and have some keen insights into my own perceptions and my current construct of inquiry. I have concluded that the research supports my current understandings of inquiry, that my classroom was already quite student-centered. I have a much different outlook now than I did at the start of this study. It has made me much more forward-thinking and has made me less self-critical and fault-finding in my abilities as an instructor than I was at this project's inception.

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