Erin Furtak
Dissertation Abstract

(Working Title) Negotiating Problems with Answers in Guided Science Inquiry:
A Study of Four Middle School Physical Science Teachers

The National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 2001) provide a philosophical orientation, general guidelines, and teaching vignettes that create a vision for science inquiry; however, they do not provide a clear description of guided science inquiry, a particular kind of activity which has particular goals for student learning (Magnusson & Palinscar, 1995). Guided science inquiry presents particular challenges to teachers, or problems with answers, that arise when teachers attempt to bring students, through a process of induction, to the particular answers predicated by the curriculum without directly divulging those answers (Driver, 1983; Edwards & Mercer, 1987; Shulman & Keislar, 1966). The proposed study responds, on a small scale, to a call for an expanded vision of science inquiry across a range of curricula and classroom contexts (Songer, Lee, & McDonald, 2004). The study will take place in the context of a physical science unit that consists of well-defined investigations in which students are expected to learn, through a process of inquiry, a density-based explanation of sinking and floating. Four teachers were selected from a larger pool of teachers involved with a previous nationwide study (Shavelson & Young, 2000) on the basis of posttest achievement scores to represent low and high achieving students. Through an analysis of discussions from each of the four classrooms videotaped at key investigations in the unit, supplemented by in-depth interviews of each teacher, case studies will be constructed describing each teacher's approach to guided science inquiry. Results of cross-case analyses will be compared with measures of student learning of density-related concepts taken from assessments embedded in the unit and administered at the completion of the unit. Overall results will be used to inform the beginnings of a typology of guided science inquiry teaching.