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Effect of inquiry labs on content knowledge and inquiry skills

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Nelson, Wendy
Korenic, Eileen
MSE, Physics
Apr 17, 2012
Inquiry skills; Inquiry (Theory of knowledge); Science--Study and teaching (Secondary)--Standards; Academic achievement; Inquiry-based learning; Physics--Study and teaching (Secondary)
Inquiry had become a major part of science education in the last decade, as seen by the inclusion in the National Science Standards (NRC1996, 2000). However, the definition of inquiry can vary widely between educators. The structure of inquiry inclusion in the classroom can significantly contribute to the benefits students might receive. Therefore, it is essential that educators prove with data and analysis, that the structure of changes made to curriculum improve student understanding of content and inquiry skills. This study evaluated the inclusion of inquiry labs into the curriculum of two units of Physical Science to determine whether students? understanding of material and inquiry skills improved. Three groups of students were given a pre-test on inquiry skills. These inquiry related skills relate to experimental design, identification of variables and the development of testable scientific questions. The students were also given pre-tests in content related to the two units of study, energy and electricity. Some of the groups performed inquiry labs while others performed a more traditional lab. Post-tests were given in all areas to determine whether an improvement occurred. After analysis it was found that there was no statistically significant improvement on any assessments between the groups that participated in the inquiry lab and the groups that did not participate in inquiry labs. However, anecdotal examination of individual student scores did indicate some improvement.
Plan B Paper. 2012. Master of Science in Education-Physics--University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Physics Department. 52 leaves. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 21-22).
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