Here We Grow Again:

Here We Grow Again:

Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons

EJSE Editorial by David T. Crowther

In a recent communication, one of the EJSE readers commented on the fact that although the Electronic Journal of Science Education claims to be a journal for the entire science education community (K-16), it presently concentrates its efforts at the "higher" end of the educational circles and primarily on research topics. Looking back through the issues . . . well, yes we have.

The complaint took members of EJSE through an interesting discussion which has resulted in a new section being added to the EJSE this month. The new section will be entitled "Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons." Many journals in the science education community have aligned themselves with either research orientations or practical applications of research. Several journals have found a nice balance in including both. When the editors of EJSE began discussing the purpose and breadth of the journal we concluded that EJSE can maintain high research publication standards as well as be a model for other journals concerning practical applications of research to the K-16 classroom.

The new section of the EJSE, "Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons" will be an effort to balance research and practical application in science education that is applicable to the K-16 classrooms. In this section, we are urging teachers in K-16 settings to submit their very best research applications and science lesson ideas to be peer reviewed and included in this new section.

However, there is a catch!!! In order to justify this new section, we must take into consideration some of the current initiatives in science education. In other words, we must use a lesson design style that is advocated by the National Science Education Standards (NSES) - an inquiry approach which utilizes the Learning Cycle. In addition, we must be able to reference the specific standards of the NSES in the lesson plan. Finally, there must be enough content in the "background information" section so as to clearly communicate the content and process of the concept / topic being studied so that the average lay person may be able to teach the lesson. After all, this will be a resource for all teachers on all levels including pre-service teachers.

(Read more about Inquiry and the Learning Cycle in the "guidelines for publishing in EJSE Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons" section.

At present the Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons will be a separate section in the journal. These applications and activities will then be archived in five different parts. General applications, K-4 applications, 5-8 applications, 9-12 applications, and college level applications. Within each grade level category, there will be different categories as defined by the NSES - Science Content Standards. The lessons will be differentiated as Observations, Investigations, and / or Experiments.

With this new section in the EJSE, we will be able to serve the needs of the entire K-16 community by providing valuable research as well as practical applications to that research. We encourage you and your colleagues to submit you work in this new section so that it may grow and become the resource that is intended.

Guidelines for publishing in EJSE:

Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons section.


Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons

Philosophy of the section


The NSES (1996) define inquiry as:

Inquiry is a set of interrelated processes by which scientists and students pose questions about the natural world and investigate phenomena; in doing so, students acquire knowledge and develop a rich understanding of concepts, principles, models, and theories. Inquiry is a critical component of a science program at all grade levels and in every domain of science, and designers of curricula and programs must be sure that the approach to content, as well as the teaching and assessment strategies, reflect the acquisition of scientific understanding through inquiry. Students then will learn science in a way that reflects how science actually works (p 214).

Inquiry & The Learning Cycle:

The Learning Cycle originally credited to Karplus & Thier (1967), who published it in the Science Teacher, has been used in science education from its conception. Probably one of the earliest and foremost supporters of the Learning Cycle was the SCIS (Science Curriculum Improvement Study) program which adapted it and included it in its science curriculum. Although there are several "E" versions (e.g. 3E, 4 E, 5E, and other modifications) the basic premise is that children have an experience with the phenomena in the learning of the concept / topic. In other words, the Learning Cycle applied the inquiry approach to teaching into a series of planning strategies. Versions of the Learning Cycle are present in the major science curricula today (FOSS, STC, BSCS, etc.) As well as introduced and used as a science lesson planning strategy in most current Science Methods texts. The BSCS approach to the Learning Cycle is credited to Roger Bybee who developed the 5 E model which will be used in the Applications of Research & Model Inquiry Lessons section of EJSE. Bybee’s 5 E model is as follows:

The Lesson Plan Format - 5E Learning Cycle (BSCS / Bybee)

ENGAGEMENT (Introducing a Lesson)

Whether you begin in a very directed or less directed manner will depend on the complexity of the concept and the background of the children. Sometimes you will want to use a hands-on experience to create interest and arouse questions, then lead children into a exploration to develop a concept for which they have some background knowledge. Sometimes, because you feel that children lack the background knowledge, you will begin in a very guided manner to carefully introduce the concept and later, when children have become familiar, move to a more exploratory activity. The direction that you take should come from the decisions that you make during preplanning.

Regardless of the direction that you take, your introduction should engage children, arouse curiosity, and set a direction for the lesson. The children should, by the end of your introduction have an idea about the focus of the lesson and what they will be doing. The introductory activity should also help you reaffirm your thinking about your student's background knowledge and readiness for the experience.


This is the bulk of the lesson where children are immersed in exploration of topics or concepts. This is the primary activity of the lesson. Students work with one another to explore ideas through hands-on activities. The teacher is the facilitator and observes and listens to students as they interact. The teacher asks probing questions of the students so that they clarify their own understanding of major concepts. Additional questions may be asked to redirect students’ investigations when necessary. Adequate time for thorough investigation is critical at this time.


This is the meat of the lesson. Here is where you will carefully develop a specific questioning sequence that relates to the new knowledge that you identified as your purpose of the lesson. The sequence of questions in this portion of the lesson is most important. Here is where your knowledge of children development and learning theory really becomes important. This is the place to reflect on stages of learning, moving from concrete to abstract, from the known to the new. You will also want to refer to people who support inquiry and carefully guide children's exploration of a topic or concept while you probe their thinking and provide feedback.

During lesson development you are the one who is responsible for knowing the content well enough that you can flexibly respond to what children do and say during the lesson development. Your knowledge of various ways to teach will be needed to decide if you must revise your lesson plan in midstream. Your knowledge of management will be needed to help you redirect children who do not follow the "group" as you expected, yet need to be engaged for learning. All of these possibilities make teaching complex and often difficult to do well.


Depending upon the time that you have allocated for the lesson and the manner in which the lesson development proceeds, you will eventually need to bring the lesson to closure. If you completed the lesson development as you planned. then closure is really an elaboration of what was done and learned during the lesson. It is most helpful here if students are the ones who verbalize what was learned. It is also appropriate here to move students toward possible applications for what was learned. If the lesson development did not go as planned, then closure may merely be a temporary stopping point, with less elaboration, until you can resume tomorrow.

Learning theorists tell us that it helps us to retain new knowledge if we can link it to what is already known and can chunk it in related pieces. This is the purpose that closure serves. We must help children make "chunks" out of the new information and relate it to what they already know so that the new knowledge can successfully stored, then retrieved at a later time.

Closure is important to retention of information and concepts. It is important, then, to watch the timing of the lesson so that ample time will be reserved for the closure. Remember, you will always have tomorrow. What you try to stuff into children's heads in the fleeting moments of a lesson probably won't be retained anyway. The time would be better spent in a good closure, saving other new information for another lesson.


Evaluation should not wait until the lesson is over. You should be evaluating all along. You will have a sense of how the lesson is proceeding. As you gain experience, you should find it easier to watch the responses of children. In the initial stages it may be difficult for you to do this with much accuracy. But still, you will have a sense of the lesson, which is part of evaluation.

If you planned your lesson to carefully reflect your stated purpose or objective, then evaluation should follow naturally. The type of activities that you plan should allow you to answer the question, "What did children learn about my objective and how did they demonstrate that learning?"

The value of evaluation comes in the closeness of match between your purpose and the activities in which you engage children. One of the most frequent problems that inexperienced teachers have is selecting developmentally appropriate activities that match the proposed objective. This again takes us back to careful preplanning and really knowing what is to be taught and how it might be best learned.

Evaluation of the children's learning should also lead you into evaluating your planning and presentation of the lesson. Here is where objectivity on your part is needed. Every lesson that you teach will not be wonderful and you will need to be objective about your inexperience and what you still need to learn and/or practice. It is hard to move what we know in our heads into our behavior, especially teaching behavior that is so new to us.

Initially, it may be hard for you to be critical of yourself. Perhaps you will need to remind yourself that you are a learner, that you are just beginning, and should not expect that after a few lessons that you will reach perfection. What Lucy Calkins says of writers may also be true for evaluating our teaching, that we should be "passion hot and critic cold." We should revel in what we do well, but we should also be our own critics, striving to find a more informed way to work with children. As we gain experience, we also need to be open to the evaluation of others who have more and varied experiences in teaching.

At the close of a lesson, you should take time to step back and look objectively as you reflect upon your lesson. The reflecting that you will do should help you go back and hear yourself as "teacher," to revisit the lesson as you presented it to inform your evaluation of yourself. One of your goals this semester should be to become a more objective evaluator of yourself.


Required Lesson Format:


Title and name of designer

Objective and Proficiencies (NSES Standards)

Background knowledge



Materials List

Safety procedures

Lesson Body








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