Does teaching scientific inquiry through the 5E learning cycle affect ninth grade earth science students' engagement and conceptual understanding?
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I teach ninth grade earth science at Helena High School in Helena, Montana. I conducted Action Research (AR) in two of my class periods (51 students). Most of my students are Caucasian and 19.6% utilize Special Education Services. The purpose of this AR was to assess the effects of scientific inquiry on students' conceptual learning and engagement, and effects this might have on the teacher. Scientific inquiry has been defined by Next Generation Science Standards Science and Engineering Practices, which our district has recently adopted. The long-term goal for this AR is to increase success for ninth grade students by engaging them in their learning, teaching them the process of science and increasing their understanding of the natural world through scientific inquiry instruction. The AR essential question is, 'How does teaching scientific inquiry through the 5E Learning Cycle and other strategies affect ninth grade earth science students' engagement and their conceptual understanding?' For the methodology, I compared a treatment unit, taught through scientific inquiry teaching strategies, with a non-treatment unit, taught through traditional teaching strategies. The findings from the AR demonstrate that students had an increase in conceptual understanding in the scientific inquiry taught unit and improved student science inquiry skills. Results showed that similar student engagement occurs in activities that are taught in science inquiry instruction and traditional instruction. Students demonstrated positive attitudes during both units of study when the lessons were engaging. Students were highly engaged in lessons when they were hands-on, phenomenon were demonstrated, presentations were interesting, and when they were working on projects. I plan on using many teaching strategies from this AR, such as creating one 5E Learning Cycle for each unit, increasing the number of projects that are student driven, and include more demonstrations during presentations to increase students' understanding.