A Model of Inquiry for Teaching Earth Science

  • Eric J. Pyle
Keywords: Model, Teaching, Earth, Science, Education


Teachers and administrators have heard recent calls for more inquiry-oriented science instruction at roughly the same time more emphasis has been placed on high-stakes testing in science. While these two factors justify an examination on assessment practices, they also justify a refinement in teaching approaches to science inquiry. At their core, models of inquiry-science teaching attempt to engage student in active processes of science knowledge construction, emulating the process of science itself. But each domain in science has unique, if overlapping, histories, traditions, and conventions that have directed inquiry within those sciences. This paper outlines a model of inquiry science teaching that more accurately reflects the nature of the Earth sciences than do generic or physical science-based models do. This model incorporates elements recognizable for any science domain (question posing, methods definition and application, and solution determination), but also provides specific mechanisms within each element that reflect the nature of the Earth sciences, in current, historical, and classroom contexts. These mechanisms include descriptions of materials, space, and time; observations and modeling; and interpretations and historical representations. Possible pathways for short- and long-term instructional planning are also discussed. Teaching Earth science in the K-12 classroom presents a challenge compared to other sciences in the curriculum. Earth science is an interdisciplinary science, encompassing ideas from physics, chemistry, and biology, but applied through geology, meteorology, oceanography, and in K-12 curricula, space science and astronomy. Earth science is not a narrow set of ideas, but a synthesis of many concepts, traditions, and disciplines in science.

Author Biography

Eric J. Pyle
James Madison University