The State of Inquiry in North Carolina

magnifyInquiry is seen as central to the reform of science teaching and learning at the national level, yet data to date suggests that inquiry is implemented far less frequently than one might expect at the K-12 level. Recent studies have indicated that sustained professional development is a key to teacher implementation of inquiry. Ten years following the publication of Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, we wanted to gauge the state of inquiry in North Carolina. For this study, all of the teachers in public and private schools in the state were invited to respond to an anonymous online, eighteen- question survey focused on factors related to teacher professional development in inquiry, comfort with inquiry, and their stated use of inquiry in the classroom.

The research employed qualitative and quantitative analyses to answer Likert-type questions and free response items to analyze the 990 returned surveys, asking: To what extent do teachers report employing inquiry in their science teaching and does their use of inquiry vary by student level? What contextual factors do teachers indicate relate to their inquiry implementation? We found that teachers with less experience (0-5 years) tended to have experienced more professional development with inquiry and were more likely to use inquiry in their teaching. Elementary teachers were more likely to use inquiry to teach science than middle or high school teachers.

The factor most likely to predict use of inquiry was comfort with its use, which implies that professional development in inquiry-based instruction is important to promote its use. Other factors, such as administrative support and years of experience will be discussed at the NCSLA presentation about this survey. Come to the presentation on November 10 at 9:15 during the NCSTA Professional Development Institute. Find out details of how almost 1,000 elementary, middle & high school teachers responded on the survey about how much inquiry they do, constraints, and what they need to do more. Help us modify items for a 2011-12 survey. Door prizes will be given!

Dr. Meg Blanchard
Beth Harris
Cathy Wallwork