Although various definitions of inquiry-based instruction exist, the literature provides several examples of inquiry applications in science classrooms as a means of research methodology. Layman, Ochoa, Heikkinen, and Orrill (1996) characterize inquiry as an "empirically verifiable, productive way to cultivate understanding" (p. 31). Noted as essential in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996), inquiry allows students to conduct research and understand in scientific terms. Inquiry commonly exemplifies itself in classrooms as a teaching strategy to learn content, while the argument exists that value also lies in the thinking processes involved in learning inquiry strategies. Hackett (1998) stresses that "inquiry is both a means and an end" (p. 36). Students learn, through inquiry-type strategies, to perform laboratory activities, construct explanations, and present and defend their explanations (Hackett, 1998). Successful completion of a research project may depend on students' abilities to use inquiry as a means of posing guiding questions that lead to understanding.
Hinman (1998) distinguishes between scientific inquiry and general inquiry, describing scientific inquiry as the formation of a question that can be tested and retested through experimentation. Chiappetta (1997) explains that a difference exists between teaching science through inquiry and teaching science as inquiry. The differences in these two types of instructional processes have implications for research projects. Teaching science through inquiry refers to the instructional practice of allowing students to formulate questions to guide their investigations into scientific study. Teaching science as inquiry constitutes a more encompassing practice that portrays the study of science as a process rather than a content (Chiappetta, 1997). Through inquiry methods of instruction, teachers facilitate students' moving from the stage of collecting data to a higher cognitive level of thinking as they interpret data and make sense of discoveries (Layman et al., 1996).
The Literacy Dictionary (1995) defines creative thinking as, "thought processes characterized by unique powers of problem identification, hypothesis formation, and solution evaluation" (p. 47). Pushkin (1997) provides "visualizing, personifying, associating relationships, making analogies, and dealing with ambiguity and paradox" as examples of creative thinking skills (p. 238). In terms of gathering information in the research process, Runco (1997) expresses that, "exposure to a rich variety of information leads . . . to increased interest and desire for more information" (p.101). Pertaining to creative thinking, Runco further suggests that the information gathered not be blindly accepted, but evaluated, expanded and enriched.
Creativity plays a part in the selection of projects in science and social studies. If the teacher has total selection of the topic or of the hypothesis, students may lack interest and show little initiative (Downing, 1977). Downing recommends that in the first quarter of the school year the teacher should direct the projects and slowly shift the direction of the projects to the students more each quarter until the final quarter when students should assume management of their projects. After topic selection, solving the problem may involve a series of steps requiring both convergent and divergent thinking (Meador, 1997). Treffinger (as cited in Meador, 1997) identifies three specific stages in creative problem solving, "understanding the problem, generating ideas, and planning for action" (p. 76-77). Each problem may require evaluation to determine appropriate steps for resolution based on the uniqueness of each situation.
KWL and Concept Mapping
Teachers employ many methods in helping students activate background knowledge and organize their thoughts prior to beginning a research project. Initially designed and widely used as an active reading strategy for expository text, Ogle's (1986) K-W-L model (What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned) also has application for research projects. Bryan (1998) suggests extending the K-W-L model of instructional to include a fourth column that allows students to brainstorm where needed information might be located. Guiding students in knowing where to locate the information they need facilitates research attempts by young learners. The "What I Know" column provides opportunities for the teacher to ask questions about known factors listed by the students. In Bryan's example, students mentioned that oceans contain salt as an entry in the "know" column. The teacher then asked as many questions as possible relating to why oceans are salty, how much salt is in the water, and if all oceans are equally salty (Bryan, 1998). The questions generated might then become a theses for research.
Osif (1996) defines concept mapping as "an organizing tool that is a graphical representation of what is known" (PowerPoint presentation slide 9, Internet). Roth and Roychoudhury (1993) investigated concept mapping to see how students in a high school physics class constructed meaning through concept mapping and to analyze the products of this cognitive activity. Their findings confirmed previous research by Novak, Heinze-Fry & Novak, Beyerback & Smith, and Rogoff (as cited in Roth and Roychoudhury, 1993) and added that concept mapping does have a positive effect on sustained discourse on the topic and that students ascertain the "hierarchial organization and configuration of the concepts" (Roth & Roychoudhury 1993, p. 503). A negative aspect of concept mapping relates to non-scientific ideas included on the map that could cause invalid notions to become ingrained. Recommendations to combat the possible negative components include helping students understand relationships represented in the map and assigning students specific roles to help ensure the quality of the map and the final product (Roth & Roychoudhury, 1993).
Problem and Project-Based Learning
"Project learning," as defined by Berman (1997), "is creating, testing, polishing, and producing something" (p. 1). Since project designs meet different criteria and follow different guidelines, Berman has attempted to develop categories to help classify the most common types of projects. The five categories suggested by Berman include: (1) Structured projects which follow very specific guidelines with quality standards and a definite time frame, (2) topic-related projects based on the learning from a unit of study and culminate in a written report, (3) genre-related projects created to include elements that follow clear parameters, (4) template projects that follow an accepted form or pattern, and (5) open-ended projects that encourage creativity with minimal guidelines (Berman, 1997).
Problem-based learning forms another instruction method for project generation and research- based learning. Torp and Sage (1998) define problem-based learning as "focused, experiential learning organized around the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems" (p.14). Students assuming the role of stakeholder represents a crucial element of success in problem- based learning, usually achieved as students become involved in solving problems whose outcome affects their lives in some way. Students benefit from problem-based learning through increased motivation, real-world application of learning, promotion of higher-order thinking skills, metacognition, and demonstration of understanding through application of learning (Torp and Sage, 1998; Fogarty, 1998).
Assuming that problem-based learning has the potential to provide students with a justifiable reason to research a topic of interest or need, locating the appropriate informational resources constitutes an important aspect of problem resolution. Milbury (1998) addresses this issue and suggests that in the first step students should fully understand and articulate the "problem" under investigation. "Information literacy," as clarified by Milbury (1998), "addresses selection of appropriate resources, analysis and evaluation of the information retrieved, the presentation of the findings or solution, and evaluation of both the outcome and process used" (p. 43). Further, Milbury (1998) suggests that teachers and school librarians reach optimum success when they work together, each within their own field of expertise.
Coleman (1985) describes the Enrichment Triad Model as it relates to three categories of school experiences: exploratory activities, group-training activities, and individual projects. Exploratory activities encourage interest by involving students in resource centers in the classroom. In this model, the group-training activities, which include decision-making, inquiry training, and brainstorming provide the background training for independent research (Coleman, 1985). Individual projects provide students with an opportunity to become independent investigators to research a specific topic in the form of a problem or project.
Information and Technology
Locating and utilizing information sources constitute crucial steps in developing a knowledge base for a research topic in some projects. Most students have access to recent advances in technology that allow them to tap into databases and other types of electronic information sources around the world. In the "Explorers of the Universe Scientific/Literacy Project" (Alvarez, 1997), students become both "consumers and producers" of Internet information (p. 68). Students investigate topics related to space via the Internet as they gather and check the reliability of information. Students then upload completed research papers and pertinent links onto the Internet as they share their finding with others. Critical thinking skills remain essential as students synthesize information and transform from passive receivers of information to active learners (Alvarez, 1997).
Francis (1997) indicates that traditional science laboratory projects fail to provide research experiences that engage students in the interesting or exciting aspects of scientific study. Francis recommends using a model of incorporating the Internet into lectures and laboratory assignments. In this model, students gather data on a science project based in molecular biology by accessing information on the Internet and then synthesizing the data. To complete required research papers on their particular science topic, students access necessary journal references via electronic libraries. Benefits of combining a technology component with a science research project manifest themselves in students' enthusiasm toward scientific study and in providing students with a more real-world experience (Francis, 1997).
Pachnowski (1997) identifies authenticity as one of the greatest rewards of incorporating the World Wide Web and the Internet into the classroom as a means of teaching research methods. When students have access to "real" data, they can search for pertinent information, organize their findings, and develop hypotheses relating to those findings. Examples of manipulating real data include using the World Wide Web site for the "Pick 6" lottery numbers from the state of Texas to give students an opportunity to synthesize raw data as they prove or disprove hypotheses regarding the most frequently occurring numbers and prize amounts (Pachnowski, 1997). Other examples of using Web sites to teach research methods include using the United States Census Bureau site, investigating and comparing colleges via CollegeNET, the Louis Harris Poll site that provides exposure to surveys, and the Wilmington Institute: Trial and Settlement Sciences page which allows students to predict the outcome of court cases (Pachnowski, 1997). The author also notes possible limitations of using the Internet. Access denial to a particular site based on maximum occupancy levels, the need to frequently check the availability of sites due to address changes, and not having full access to complete databanks that would provide raw data all impact the effective use of the Internet as a tool for teaching research methods (Pachnowski, 1997).
Distinctive differences appear when comparing computer technology in the classroom with other educational tools. The unique interactive aspects of computers that increase cognitive processing and the cognitive and social dimensions of the motivating capability of computers add to the potential for higher order thinking when used to solve a problem (Patterson & Smith, 1986). Technology can also impact creative processes as students exhibit less inhibition because mistakes can be easily fixed and changes easily made (Smith, 1996). While agreement exists that teachers view computer use as a means of accessing vast amounts of data used for problem solving, there is not a consensus regarding the entertainment value of computers versus the opportunities for successful cognitive learning. The types of software programs used, the social components of group or peer dynamics as they work together on the computer, and the types of projects teachers assign influence the potential for higher order thinking and subsequent "true" learning (Patterson, Smith, 1986). Smith (1996) reports that projects assigned to students which resulted in inventions like a specially equipped bicycle for the deaf, metal detecting bulletproof vests, Automatic Teller Machines for the blind, and antidrowning flotation devices for children show creative thinking.
Wetzel (1997) recommends conducting a year-long science research project that utilizes traditional sources of information and relies heavily on students' knowing how to find resources on the Internet that help them gather pertinent data. Librarians given a list of possible topics may assist in selecting and previewing references. Other components of the research project include a written report, interviews of professionals involved in the topic of study, and a multimedia presentation of the results using Hyperstudio or Microsoft Power Point software. Results from subsequent science fairs suggest that students who take advanced science classes with Mr. Wetzel produce better science fair projects because of their previous experience with independent research skills learned in the above mentioned project (Wetzel, 1997).
Traditionally, the library media specialist provides direct instruction through lecture and demonstration in the processes involved in locating information in the library. However, Zahner (1993) found that when teachers taught using cognitive strategies instruction focusing on the research process itself rather than on learning how to use specific information sources, research process orientation and general attitudes improve, and a reduction in library anxiety occurs. Students in this study used the elements of "focus, format, find and evaluate," which emphasize the affective and metacognitive domains (Zahner, 1993, p. 2). One of the implications of this study, upheld by Kuhlthau (as cited in Zahner, 1993), suggests that librarians providing direct instruction for students using beginning research methods should address research as a process that encourages the integration of thinking, feelings, and actions incurred in the process.
Providing students with appropriate instruction in the process involved in locating needed information to begin a research project denotes an important step in the training process. "Information literacy" exists when students identify the information they need to solve a problem, know how to find and apply the information, and can make decisions that move them toward personal enrichment (Joyce, Tinkham, Trainor, 1993). An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching the Research Process Using Information Technology, developed by an English teacher, a library media specialist, and a biology teacher, as described by Joyce, Tinkham, and Trainor (1993), exemplifies an effective model of cooperation between classroom and library personnel. Team-teaching allows the initiation of biology research projects to begin, supported by the library media specialist and the English teacher. Students develop research questions using information technologies, begin their research by searching key words and names, integrate concepts, and organize their search by developing guiding questions (Joyce, Tinkham, Trainor, 1993). Charts (K-W-L), webs, and diagrams developed by students organize information prior to the construction of formal outlines. In this model, the library media specialist develops a partnership with the classroom teachers and helps by directly instructing students in research methodology and in using information technologies in their respective research topics.
In his book, Cruising Through Research, Volkman (1998) uses a voyage on a cruise ship as a euphemism for a research project. He recommends that librarians work closely with teachers to plan (chart) appropriate research strategy instruction (cargo) that matches classroom research assignments (destination). McElmeel (1997) states that, "Library skills should be taught within the context of an authentic question or need" (p. 11). Following McElmeel's model, teachers take students through a series of mini-research lessons, each one designed to answer an authentic question of interest to students and to provide instruction in research methodology and library use. As in previous models, cooperation between classroom teacher and library media specialist facilitate learning (McElmeel, 1997).
Even though educators employ a variety of ways of generating topics for research in the classroom, the consensus exists that a partnership between librarians and regular classroom teachers best facilitates students' success in locating appropriate resources. Whether research is based on a problem, prompted through the development of a project, set up as a scientific method, or a combination of parts of all of these methods, locating and evaluating information is important. Many times information is then synthesized and the final product may include a written paper, report, or project. Authentic research in a particular curricular area provides appropriate practice in researching a topic. This cross-over between classroom and library necessitates that teachers and librarians share expertise, plan strategies to facilitate student learning, outline objectives, and build a bridge over which students can cross, progressing from a need to know to knowing how to find what they need.
A survey of the literature shows that educators find value in continuing the instructional practice of assigning research papers and projects to their students. The literature also reflects that clear guidelines and expectations need to be in place for teachers and students to view the process and the product as successful. Further reading would be in order to find more common denominators in successful classroom research projects. Also of interest would be to determine the value of student choice in topic selection versus teacher assigned topics. Finally, how can research projects be assessed to determine if real learning has taken place?
Classroom research provides educators with many ways to succeed with real learning taking place and many ways to fall short of everyone's expectations. Ultimately, the question remains, how do educators extract the value of problem or project-based learning from an educational model that is often filled with loose structure, unclear boundaries, arbitrary time-frames, and vague objectives, but that produces such rich rewards when done well?
Alvarez, M. C. (1997). Thinking and learning with technology: Helping students construct meaning. National Association of Secondary School Principals 81, 592: 66-72.
Berman, S. (1997). Project learning for the multiple intelligence classroom. Arlington Heights, IL: SkyLight Training and Publishing.
Chiappetta, E. L. (1997). Inquiry-based science. The Science Teacher 64, 7: 22-26.
Coleman, L. J. (1985). Schooling the gifted. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.
Downing, J. P. (1997). Creative teaching: Ideas to boost student interest. New York: Teacher Ideas Press.
Francis, J. W. (1997). Technology-enhanced research in the science classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching 26, 3: 192-196.
Hackett, J. (1998). Inquiry: Both means and ends. The Science Teacher 65, 6: 34-37.
Harris, T. L., & Hodges, R. E. (Ed.). (1995). The literacy dictionary: The vocabulary of reading and writing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Hinman, R. L. (1998). Content and science inquiry. The Science Teacher 65, 7: 25-27.
Joyce, M., Tinkham, R., & Trainor D. (1993). An interdisciplinary approach to teaching the research process using information technology. Maine Center for Educational Services. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 364 248)
Layman, J. W., Ochoa, G., Heikkinen, H., & Orrill, R. (1996). Inquiry and learning: realizing science standards in the classroom. The thinking series. New York: College Board. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 403 154)
National Science Education Standards. (1996). National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment. National Research Council.
McElmeel, S. L. (1997). Research strategies for moving beyond reporting. Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing.
Meador, K. S. (1997). Creative thinking and problem solving for young learners. New York: Teacher Ideas Press.
Milbury, P. (1998). Problem-based learning, primary sources, and information literacy. Multimedia Schools, 5, 4: 40-44.
Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.
Osif, B. (1996). Teaching research skills: Innovative strategies for library use instruction. Available online: http://iti.acns.nwu.edu/slatran/bonnie.html
Pachnowski, L. M., Newman, I., & Jurczyk, J. (1997). Immediate data: The world wide web as a resource for teaching research methods. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Educational Research Association, Hilton Head, SC. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 409 361)
Patterson, J. H., & Smith, M. S. (1986). Meeting the challenge: Computers and higher order thinking. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 286 467)
Pushkin, D. B. (1997). Where do ideas for students come from? Journal of College Science Teaching 26, 4: 238-242.
Roth, W. M., & Roychoudhury, A. (1993). The concept map as a tool for the collaborative construction of knowledge: A microanalysis of high school physics students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 30, 5: 503-534.
Runco, M. A. (1997). The creativity research handbook. New York: Hampton Press.
Smith, M. M. (1996). The Creative Edge. Electronic Learning 15, 6: 46-52.
Torp, L., & Sage, S. (1998). Problems as possibilities: Problem-based learning in K-12 education. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Volkman, J. D. (1998). Cruising through research. Elglewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.
Wetzel, D. (1997). Independent student research. The Science Teacher 64, 9: 40-43.
Zahner, J. E. (1993). Thoughts, feelings and actions:
Integrating domains in library instruction. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 362 215)
Link to Annotated Comprehensive Bibliography
Link to Pam Petty's Homepage
found in children's literature|creativity|language
Kappa Literacy projectportfolio
tennessee tech university|vygotsky Email Pam Petty
"This site contains links to other Internet sites. These links are not endorsements of any products or services in such sites, and no information in such site has been endorsed or approved by this site."
The author of this site does not endorse any links listed above. These links represent a search of the Internet and are included to facilitate teachers and parents interested in stressors that affect children. If you find objectionable materials on any of these sites, please notify the author of this site. Thank you.
11/02/04 02:02:40 PM