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The IERI Research Community :: Projects

An Experimental Efficacy Study of Science Achievement and Attitude Development amongst 8th Grade Students Using an Inquiry, Integrated Science-Mathematics-Engineering Model of Instruction

William Cobern

Norman Lederman, Renee Swartz, David Schuster

Math, Science

Background: Inquiry teaching of science reflects the investigative attitudes and empirical techniques scientists use to construct new knowledge. In recent years, under the National Research Council, National Science Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science leadership, the United States has developed a national commitment to the teaching of science as inquiry across the K-12 grades. Since the NSF-funded science curriculum projects of the 1960s, many teachers, researchers, curriculum writers, policymakers, and others have been interested in the effectiveness of inquiry-based curricula and inquiry instruction with respect to science concept achievement. Research and evaluation projects have been carried out and proponents of inquiry teaching claim that there is general support for the effectiveness of inquiry instruction. Critics, however, are quick to point out that very little of this research has been unconfounded and thus the research support for inquiry instruction is tenuous at best. Given the widespread adoption of inquiry methods for science teaching, the lack of unconfounded experimental research data in support of inquiry instruction effectiveness is cause for alarm.

Purpose: The goal of this research is to test the efficacy of an inquiry model of science instruction to show best practice. The research will ask what works with regard to science instruction for middle school students and under what circumstances.

Intervention: This project is developing, adapting, and revising science instructional practices according to the components of a model of inquiry instruction; these practices will then be experimentally tested against expert direct instruction.

Setting: This research is being conducted in Chicago Public Schools in Illinois, and Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan.

Research Design: The intervention (model practices) will be experimentally tested against expert direct instruction using the random assignment of students to treatment and control groups. The specification of treatment is exact and repeatable. The control is appropriate and significant: a highly refined method of direct instruction that has support in the literature. Science conceptual achievement and science attitudes are measured as dependent variables using a double-blind format. The dependent measures are developed by an agent independent of the research team using an assessment format that is generalizable. Surveys and semi-structured qualitative interviews with students and teachers are used to augment experimental data.

You can learn more about this project by visiting