Elementary Preservice Teachers’ Understandings about the Purposes of Scientific Inquiry

By Byoung Sug Kim and Kenneth King.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Although a rationale in inquiry learning is that students can test what they already know, the focus of inquiry activities in elementary classrooms tends to engage students in hands-on activities without exploring or testing students’ explanations. To achieve the full benefit of inquiry teaching, while testing students’ ideas, a teacher should understand the process of hypothesis testing. The purpose of the study was to investigate 178 preservice elementary teachers’ understandings of hypothesis testing with a developed questionnaire. The results indicate that preservice elementary teachers cannot make an appropriate conclusion in relation to whether obtained results support a hypothesis or not. Rather, preservice elementary teachers tend to draw out conclusions based on their personal knowledge. The results also indicate that preservice elementary teachers lack an adequate understanding of hypothesis testing. First, much more view the purpose of an experiment as testing a prediction than testing a hypothesis. Secondly, few prioritize rejecting a hypothesis as an essential process of learning. When asked what students can learn most from unexpected results, they do not consider rejecting students’ hypothesis. Finally, a majority associate the benefit of doing experiments with just hands-on experience. Few take testing students’ ideas into consideration. It is evident that preservice elementary teachers view inquiry teaching as merely opportunities for students to be engaged in hands-on experience. The present findings imply that merely following an inquiry teaching model may not be enough for preservice elementary teachers to implement inquiry activities to facilitate students’ knowledge development.

Keywords: Scientific Inquiry, Teacher Education, Elementary Science Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp.163-174. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 795.040KB).

Byoung Sug Kim

Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum Studies, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL, USA

Dr. Kim earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Science Education in South Korea and Doctor of Philosophy in science education from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He is currently in the Elementary Education Program in the Dept. of Curricular Studies at Roosevelt University. He has taught courses in elementary science teaching methods, early childhood teaching methods, inquiry in classroom and a student teaching seminar. His main research interest is related to the nature of science, scientific inquiry, and transformative learning. He has been actively involved in a professional development project which was designed to enhance K–12 science teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and skills in relation to the nature of science and scientific inquiry. In addition, he has integrated service-learning experiences into his science teaching methods courses and into an introductory chemistry course in collaboration with the science department.

Dr. Kenneth King

Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum Studies, Roosevelt University, Schaumburg, IL, USA

Kenneth King is a faculty member in the College of Education at Roosevelt University. Dr. King’s specialization is in science education. His research interests are related to the use of technology in instruction, science teacher preparation, self-efficacy constructs, Science–Technology–Society approaches to the curriculum, and the history of science and technology. Previously, he was a faculty member at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. He began his teaching career as a secondary science teacher, on the faculty of Elgin, Illinois School District U–46. He is a member of several professional organizations, and has served on the publication board of three. He has over seventy academic presentations to his credit and is the author of numerous articles on science education and the use of technology in instruction as well as having authored two books on teaching science.


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