To Inquire or Not to Inquire, That is the Inquiry-Based Question

Marivic Mitchell 
Science Teacher
G.H. Moody Middle School
Henrico County Public Schools

Listen to Marivic discuss her action research project

George H. Moody Middle School is an IB World School.  Two-thirds of our students applied to the program from all over Henrico County Elementary Schools and one-third are community students zoned for Moody. I teach Advanced Physical Science to 7th graders. Schools always strive to improve the quality of education by making the teaching and learning process more effective. This study aimed at exploring how inquiry-based learning enhances Grade 7 students’ conceptual understanding of science. My students are mostly high-achievers. They can learn fast but lack critical thinking skills and have problems applying the new concepts learned. The students have little awareness of scientific research as struggle with research skills and knowledge retention. Students have a hard time applying concepts to new topics learned. Most of them fail to perform well on assessments that assess their ability to think. I posed this research question: Does inquiry-based teaching increased student’s cognitive engagement in 7th grade Advanced Physical Science that will eventually lead to higher order thinking?

The focus of the research was students’ learning based on Pre and Post Tests and the types of questions asked at increasing levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation). At the end of my project,, students designed an Independent Science Research Project for Science Fair Competition. I wanted them to come up with their own hypothesis and test it to support their research. I know that by providing them with an opportunity to asked questions, my students developed their curiosity and learned more effectively. The results of the research shows that the inquiry-based teaching increased student’s cognitive engagement and produced a positive effect on student learning. In a class of 29 students, 93 written questions were asked during our Energy Unit of study. The level of questions were carefully documented and analyzed on the basis of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and showed development from recall questions to questions asking students to evaluate. . I can conclude that based on my research study and data collected, the inquiry-based teaching approach is an effective way to improve students’ learning. Finally, an additional question that came up for future action research was “How does work in collaborative group mediate learning in the classroom?

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