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Inquiry Based Hands-on Instruction for Science

Have you tried inquiry as an instructional model?

Dewey proposed that inquiry is the “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” 


Consider the following scenarios: 

  • A teacher asks students to interpret a set of animal tracks, and generate several alternative hypotheses to explain the pattern of the prints.
  • Students are asked to look at data of weather patterns in a particular area over a 10 year period.  The students are asked to form hypotheses and further questions based on the data.  
  • A teacher takes students on a field trip to collect leaves from different trees. Students are asked to create a classification system using the leaves.
  • A teacher gives students an unknown substance, and asks them to use scientific tests to determine the composition of the material.
  • A teacher provides students with a variety of magnets and other materials and asks them to set up their own experiments. 
In each of the above situations, the teacher has created a situation in the classroom in which students are asked to formulate their own ideas, state their opinion on an important issue, or to find things out for themselves. It is a radical departure from the Direct Instruction Teaching model in which the teacher engages students to learn science information or skills by directly telling the students about them. In each of the above scenarios, the student is encouraged to ask questions, analyze specimens or data, draw conclusions, make inferences, or generate hypotheses. In short the student is viewed as an inquirer—a seeker of information, and a problem solver. This is the heart of the inquiry model of teaching.

Start with something intriguing, puzzling or interesting.

 Ask Questions and get students to explore and experiment.

 Guide students but allow them to articulate their ideas.  

Planning questions in advance will help you guide the students towards the concepts you want them to learn.
Inquiry encourages students to formulate additional questions for further investigation, record their ideas and data, and form conclusions based on evidence.



Inquiry as a model aligns perfectly with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Science and Engineering Practices

Asking Questions (for science) and Defining Problems (for engineering)
Developing and Using Models
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
Constructing Explanations (for science) and Designing Solutions (for engineering)
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect 
Scale, proportion and quantity
Systems and system models
Energy and matter 
Structure and function
Stability and change
Disciplinary Core Ideas
Will vary by Content
My resources use inquiry to engage students in science. Check out these resources in my store:

Check Out More Inquiry Based Resources In My TPT Store


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