Teachers' inquiry efficacy and implementation following a field and laboratory based science educator program
Parlo, Amy Tera
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There is an increasing body of research providing evidence that inquiry-oriented teaching results in improved student content knowledge and critical thinking skills (Hurd, 1998; Narode, 1987; Weinstein et al., 1982; Bredderman, 1982). Inquiry instruction has also been found to enhance learning in underrepresented and underserved populations (Rosebery et al., 1992; Scruggs et al., 1993). It is argued that educators often teach in the way in which they learned (Loucks-Horsely, 1998) If teachers are to implement inquiry in their classrooms, as outlined by the National Science Education Standards, it is important that are provided with experiences that engage them in inquiry learning. This study investigated teachers’ inquiry efficacy and their implementation of inquiry in classroom instruction following participation in a two-week, residential program that immersed teachers in intensive field and laboratory experiences. Using the Teaching Science as Inquiry instrument (Dira-Smolleck, 2004), it was determined that following the program, there were positive gains in teachers’ inquiry efficacy and that these increases were consistent over the course of the year following the program. Case studies of six of the participants revealed that although efficacy had increased, changes in inquiry instructional methods were modest. Although participants expressed their feelings that inquiry was an essential element of science and science education, competing responsibilities and the limitations of the traditional classroom were perceived to hinder their ability to increase their implementation of inquiry. Implications of this study emphasize that purported changes in teacher beliefs do not necessarily result in changes in practice. While research should continue to identify perceived obstacles to implementing reform, teacher education programs and inservice need to offer teachers an opportunity to confront their beliefs about reform and how it may fit into the context of their teaching.