What effect will using inquiry methods of teaching science have on sixth grade students?

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


How should science be taught? Is it enough to be familiar with vocabulary words and to learn concepts others have figured out? Or should the desire to know be the initiator and sustainer of the learning situation? How should science be taught? This project studies the effect of using the 5E method of inquiry - Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate - to teach sixth grade students. Of interest was the effect it would have on students' attitude towards science, their understanding of science content, students' data collection and data organizational skills, students' ability to design and conduct a controlled experiment, and the effect on the teacher. Ninety-seven students were taught two units using the 5E method of inquiry. The results were compared to units that were taught by non-inquiry methods. Student tests, surveys, interviews, and performance tests were considered in the analysis. The conclusions were that students did improve data collection and organizational skills and in their ability to design and conduct a controlled experiment. Content scores were actually lower for the inquiry unit. Interviews and surveys indicated that students were more engaged in the inquiry units. Survey results showed that students liked science less after the year of school but teacher observations and student interviews confirmed more engagement. Survey results showed that the change in attitude was due to it being more complicated. The units using inquiry methods took longer to complete than non-inquiry units. The teacher could not just cover the material. Students needed time to process the information and discuss and explore with activities. Inquiry methods created more work for me, the teacher, because I had to alter the activities to make them inquiry, and compile student data to find patterns in student ideas. The misconceptions were more obvious since students were required to explain and discuss, and it took time to deal with these misconceptions. It was exciting work because there was a strong feeling of engagement in the classroom.




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