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Carl J. Wenning, Ed.D., Department of Physics, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA,

email: wenning@phy.ilstu.edu

The inquiry spectrum is a hierarchical approach to teaching science in a fashion that is likely

to increase student conceptual understanding as well as develop their understanding of scientific

inquiry and the nature of science. Inquiry spectrum learning sequences or more simply learning

sequences present an explicit hierarchical framework for inquiry-oriented teaching and

learning. Such sequences help to ensure that students develop a wider range of intellectual

process skills than are promoted in a typical introductory physics course that uses more limited

modes of instruction. It is imperative for teachers and teacher educators to have a thorough

understanding of the full spectrum of inquiry-oriented approaches to teaching so that they can

more easily help students and teacher candidates achieve a higher degree of science literacy. To

give a more practical understanding of the inquiry spectrum framework and associated learning

sequences, contextualized examples are provided.

Many science teachers the world over use different inquiry is too often presented as an amalgam of skills

inquiry-oriented teaching approaches without having a to be taught in no particular order or fashion.

comprehensive understanding of their Some teachers seem to believe that students learn

interrelationships. Consequently their teaching is not about the processes and nature of science through

systematic and often fails to address important osmosis; that is, no direct instruction is needed. In

intellectual processes skills that must be integrated into practice, this approach leaves students with an

teaching if students are to develop a more incoherent and incomplete understanding of these

comprehensive understanding of the subject matter as topics. It also leaves many science teachers and teacher

well as a complete set of scientific reasoning skills. In candidates confused as to differences between such

addition, failure to treat scientific inquiry approaches as demonstrations, lessons, and labs, and

systematically can result in the failure to develop what role inquiry plays in each. For instance, couldnt a

among students an understanding of the processes and good lesson consist of an interactive demonstration? If

nature of science. In other words, teachers need to so, how would the interactive demonstration differ

include in their teaching logical, coherent, and from a lesson? A good lab activity would seem to be a

systematic approaches to inquiry that help students good lesson. So, what is the difference between a

become scientifically literate in a much more lesson and a lab activity? The differences between

comprehensive fashion. demonstrations and labs seem readily apparent; the real

The literature of science literacy encourages problem resides in defining the transitional phase

teachers to employ inquiry as a regular part of teaching between a demonstration and a lab the inquiry lesson

practice (e.g., National Science Education Standards, (Wenning, 2005).

Science For All Americans: Project 2061). There is a clear need to present a broader

Unfortunately, this doesnt always happen. One of the framework for inquiry approaches that can differentiate

chief reasons cited in the literature is that the teachers between various inquiry approaches and their scope in

are often inadequately prepared to use it (Costenson & scientific investigation each with its associated

Lawson, 1986). In addition, science education literature activities and intellectual process skills. Indeed, a

does not provide a framework that helps teachers and hierarchy must be provided for effective transmission

teacher candidates clearly understand the scope and of this knowledge. A model is needed for science

sequence of different inquiry approaches. Scientific teaching that integrates an understanding of the

hierarchy of inquiry approaches and instructional

The author thanks Manzoor Ali Khan, The Aga Khan

Higher Secondary School, Gilgit, Baltistan, Pakistan, for known as Levels of Inquiry (Wenning, 2005).

contributions to the introductory section of this article.

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 11 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

Scientific Inquiry in the Classroom which the locus of control shifts from the teacher to the

student. In this teaching framework, outlined in Table

Science education reform literature presents no 1, the levels of inquiry within the inquiry spectrum are

clear and precise definition of what constitutes student shown: discovery learning, interactive demonstration,

inquiry. Student inquiry has been defined in the inquiry lesson, inquiry lab (3 types guided, bounded,

National Science Education Standards (NAS, 1995, p. and free), real-world applications (2 types textbook

23) as the activities of students in which they develop and authentic), and hypothetical inquiry (2 types pure

knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as and applied).

well as an understanding of how scientists study the The inquiry spectrum also can be characterized in

natural world. The Standards do define the abilities a number of additional ways such as from simple to

necessary for students to conduct scientific inquiry: complex, from conceptual to analytical, from concrete

identify questions and concepts that guide scientific to abstract, from general to specific, from inductive to

investigations, design and conduct scientific deductive, from broad to narrow, from general

investigations, use technology and mathematics to principles to mathematical relationships, and in some

improve investigations and communications, formulate sense from lower to higher grade level appropriateness.

and revise scientific explanations using logic and (Education of elementary children will focus on the left

evidence, recognize and analyze alterative explanations end of spectrum, and high school and college students

and models, [and] communicate and defend a scientific the entire inquiry spectrum.) The inquiry spectrum

argument (pp. 175-176). Nonetheless, the Standards reflects modern educational thinking about how

provide precious little guidance about how inquiry education of students is best accomplished. The present

processes are to be utilized or taught. article attempts to further explicate the inquiry

To address these perceived deficiencies, the author spectrum by providing a variety of learning sequences

introduced an inquiry spectrum (Wenning, 2005) to suitable for teaching concepts, principles, and laws in

described what he saw as a variety of inquiry-based science using subject matter encountered in a typical

teaching/learning approaches that progressively move introductory physics course. Additional learning

from less sophisticated to more sophisticated, and in sequences will be provided in a follow-up article.

Learning Demonstration Lesson (3 types) (2 types) (2 types)

Lower Intellectual Sophistication Higher

Teacher Locus of Control Student

Table 1. The scientific inquiry spectrum adapted from Wennings Levels of Inquiry article (2005).

Learning sequences present an explicit hierarchical sequences associated with springs. The first cycle is

framework for inquiry-oriented teaching and learning. focused on the development of Hookes law, and the

Such sequences help to ensure that students develop a second on the relationship between the masses and

wider range of intellectual process skills than are period of oscillation for a horizontally mounted spring

promoted in a typical introductory physics course that system. Neither learning sequence includes

uses more limited modes of instruction. Table 2 hypothetical inquiry.

provides two examples of successive learning

learning demonstration lesson lab

Students are given a variety The teacher demonstrates The students, conducting a Students extend their

of springs to examine with effects of attaching masses to whole class lab under the study of Hookes law

the teacher focusing student a vertically suspended spring. guidance of the teacher, by determining the

Hookes Law

action on and attention to the Focus is on students work out Hookes law for effect of adding two

following concepts: spring developing an understanding springs (F = -kx). The springs with different

constant, applied force, of the relationship between apparatus from the inter- spring constants (k)

restoring force, equilibrium force on a spring and its active demonstration is in series, and the

position, displacement from extension from equilibrium used, but now with data effect of adding two

equilibrium, compression, position. Misconceptions are collection and graphing to identical springs in

and extension. addressed as appropriate. find the relationship parallel.

between F and x.

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 12 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

Students are provided with The teacher pulls down on a The teacher helps the stu- Students experimentally

a suspended spring and weight attached to a vertically dents to develop a verify the models relation-

masses and encouraged to suspended spring and asks, mathematical model to ship f = c k m and find

examine the system. The What happens when the represent an oscillating

Oscillating Springs

teacher asks, Is there a amount of suspended mass is horizontal system using

relationship between mass increased? and What dimensional analysis. That ality, c = 1/2, through a

on the spring, how far it is happens with the same controlled experiment

is, f =c k m. (For

where the mass is varied

displaced from equilib- amount of mass but with

information about and the corresponding

rium, and between how different spring constants?

dimensional analysis, see frequency measured. Stu-

frequently is goes up and The teacher, working with

the Illinois State Physics dents are given horizontal

down? Develop the student participation, conducts

Departments online springs attached to a car on

concepts of frequency, activities addressing mis-

Student Lab Handbook at a track and a set of masses

period, and amplitude. conceptions as appropriate.

www.phy.ilstu.edu/slh/). to conduct the experiment.

Table 2. The above table provides two examples of successive learning sequences associated with springs. Neither

includes real-world applications nor hypothetical inquiry.

Table 3 depicts a somewhat more sophisticated complete learning sequence (one that includes

learning sequence based on the inquiry spectrum. It hypothetical inquiry) looks like in actual practice.

deals with Ohms law and electrical circuits. The Watch for a follow-up of this article (currently in

subsequent sections of this article explain in detail the development) for more examples of inquiry sequences

various levels of inquiry in the inquiry spectrum using addressing a wide array of topics taught in most

this more complex learning sequence to show what a introductory physics courses.

learning: demonstration: lesson: laboratory:

Students are given batteries, Students are introduced to The teacher uses a think Students find relationships

wires, and light bulbs and multimeters as a means of aloud protocol and Socratic between resistors in series

asked to light one or more measuring voltage, dialogue to help students and then in parallel

bulbs using one or more current, and resistance. derive a mathematical working in small groups.

batteries. Socratic dialogues Principles first proposed relationship between current Before students begin

are used to develop the in the discovery-learning and voltage for a series working on parallel

concepts of voltage, phase are examined. Focus circuit containing a power circuits, they are

Ohms Law and Electrical Circuits

current, and resistance. is now placed an supply and a single resistor. introduced to the concept

Students are presented with explanation of This is done a second and of the inverse ohm or

simple series circuits with observations made during third time with 2 and then 3 mho (with the unit of

light bulbs of varying discovery-learning phase. roughly identical resistors in 1/ or ) a measure of

brightness and are asked to The teacher proposes the series. In effect, students electrical conductance or

explain potential causes for analogy of water flowing derive various parts of admittance to make

the differences. Simple in a pipe as a model for Ohms Law. Socratic finding the parallel

relationships relating electrical flow. Students dialogue is use to generate relationship simpler. The

voltage, current, and analyze alterative the more general form of the y-intercept is related to the

resistance are elicited. explanations and models. relationship V=IR. system parameter the

value of the fixed resistor.

Real-world applications: In the area textbook applications, students can use Ohms laws to analyze circuit diagrams

including current flow and voltage drops across various circuit components or the entire circuit. In the area of authentic

applications, students can apply a provided definition of electrical power (P=IV=I2R) to analyze energy utilization in a

household over the course of an entire month.

Hypothetical inquiry: In the area of pure hypothetical inquiry, students use Ohms law and resistance relationships to

explain why resistance in series is additive (conservation of energy) and why resistance in parallel is inversely additive

(conservation of charge). In the area of applied hypothetical inquiry, students can be presented with an array of circuit

puzzles. They form hypotheses as to how current flows in a given circuit using their understanding of conservation of

charge and energy. Based on their understanding, they predict the direction and amount of current flow in each branch

of various circuits. They then use meters to check their prediction and revise hypotheses in light of the evidence.

Table 3. The above table constitutes a sample learning sequence based on the introduction of simple electrical

circuits and the development Ohms law.

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 13 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

The following sections of this article are designed but a simple understanding of several principles

to more fully explicate the relationship between the contained within Ohms law as well. In this example,

inquiry spectrum and the associated learning sequences findings are based on batteries and bulbs wired in

using Ohms law, electrical circuits, and resistance series only. In conducting this phase of the learning

relationships as practical examples. sequence, the teacher could perform the following

steps:

Discovery Learning

1. Give students 1 battery, 1 light bulb, and 1 or 2

Discovery learning is perhaps the most wires. Ask students to use the battery and wire(s)

fundamental form of inquiry-oriented learning. It is to get the bulb to light. Once they do this, ask what

based on the Eureka! I have found it! approach. A is happening, and why other wiring configurations

series of directed activities and follow-up questions are do or dont make the bulb light. The students,

used. With Wennings (2005) definition of discovery through teacher questioning, should be able to

learning, the teacher is largely in control of both understand that the battery is the source of

intellectual and manipulative processes (unlike some something (say, electricity) and when this

other definitions where students might play with something is supplied to the bulb in a certain way,

materials without direction from a teacher in the hope it lights. The students, again through appropriate

that they will stumble upon concepts or principles). teacher questioning, should be able to develop the

The sophistication of the intellectual processes needed concept of a closed circuit.

and demonstrated by students are of a lower order. The 2. Give the students 2 batteries, 1 light bulb, and

focus of this form of discovery learning is not on enough wires to develop a series circuit of all

finding explanations of phenomena or applications for items. (Youll have to tell the students to wire the

knowledge; rather, emphasis is placed on constructing batteries + to so that they are in a series

conceptual understanding based on first-hand configuration.) Have students wire one bulb and

experiences. New terms are introduced to match one battery in series, and then have them compare

concepts only after they are developed. Simple what happens with the light bulb when it is wired

conditional relationships or principles are discovered in series with two batteries. Through questioning,

(e.g., if x occurs, then y results). While explanations students can see that more batteries mean more

are excluded from this level of inquiry, future electricity. The students can be helped through

explanations will be based on experiences at this and questioning to develop the concept of current.

more advanced levels of inquiry. Note, too, how the 3. Next, have students wire one battery in series with

locus of control resides primarily with the teacher in two light bulbs. Have students compare the results.

the discovery-learning phase of the inquiry sequence. They will note that more bulbs reduce the amount

The teacher does not seek direction from the students of something flowing through the circuit (current).

and maintains control over student activities. Students can be led to see that the more

resistance there is in a circuit, the less current

A Detailed Example of Discovery Learning there is in the circuit.

4. To check the above idea, students should be asked

Consider the discovery-learning example of Table to wire two batteries with two bulbs, all in series,

3. Students are given batteries, wires, and light bulbs and compare this with one battery and one bulb

and asked to light one or more bulbs using one or more wired in series. The brightness of the bulbs will be

batteries. Socratic dialogues are used to develop the the same on both circuits. Ask the students why

concepts of voltage, current, and resistance. Students this happens. With appropriate Socratic

are presented with simple series circuits with light dialoguing, students should be able to see the

bulbs of varying brightness and are asked to explain relationship between the amount of electricity

potential causes for the differences. Simple (current) and resistance.

relationships relating voltage, current, and resistance 5. Ask students to think of an analogy using water

are elicited. flowing in pipes. The teacher asks about a

After the students get the bulb to light, discussing definition for current. The teacher explains about

what happens, and clarifying concepts and introducing current use analogy between current that flows in

terms, the teacher directs the students to wire the the circuit and flow of water. The teacher guides

electrical components in different configurations, and the student to find that I=Q/t. The teacher asks a

to think about associated observations. In so doing, and question about what determines to the amount of

with the teachers use of Socratic dialogues (Wenning water flowing through a pipe (the pressure and the

et al., 2006; Wenning, 2005b), students develop not size or the pipe which is related to resistance).

only the concepts of voltage, current, and resistance, Coming back to the example with wires, they

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 14 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

should be able to develop through appropriate happens to the brightness of a light bulb as more and

teacher questioning the relationship between more batteries are added (in series) to the circuit. The

current and voltage, current and resistance teacher introduces electrical meters and measures

relationships that are special cases of Ohms law. potential difference across and current through the bulb

using a voltmeter and ammeter. The students are shown

While going through discovery learning, students that by adding batteries in series, they can make the

employ rudimentary intellectual process skills (see bulb brighter. From this they can conclude on the basis

Wenning, 2005, page 11). Perhaps the most obvious in of evidence that higher potential differences produce

this example are observing, formulating concepts, higher current for a given light bulb (resistance). In

estimating, drawing conclusions, communicating conducting this phase of the learning sequence, the

results, and classifying results. It is unlikely that any teacher could perform the following steps:

one example of discovery learning will address all 1. Call students attention to the simple circuit at the

these forms of intellectual process skills. Over the front of the classroom. The circuit consists of a

course of a school year and with different subject light bulb and a battery (cell) wired in series. The

matter and inquiry sequences, all these intellectual bulb is lit. Ask students to explain what is

skills can be introduced and developed with practice. happening within the circuit that results in the light

bulb being lit. Ask what happens when any wire is

Interactive Demonstration disconnected. Elicit preconception that electric

current is used up by the light bulb.

An interactive demonstration generally consists of 2. Ask students to predict what will happen if another

a teacher manipulating (demonstrating) an apparatus and another battery (cell) is subsequently added in

and then asking probing questions about what will series. Ask them to explain their reasoning. Add

happen (prediction) or how or why something might another battery (cell) and see if student predictions

have happened (explanation). The teacher is in charge correspond with what is experienced. If not, seek

of conducting the demonstration, developing and further explanations.

asking probing questions, eliciting responses in pursuit 3. Now, with a fixed number of batteries (cells),

of identifying alternative conceptions, putting students increase the number of light bulbs in series. Before

in a case of cognitive dissonance so that they might the circuit is connected, have students predict and

confront alternative conceptions that are identified, explain what will happen. Connect the circuit and

soliciting further explanations to resolve any see if student predictions correspond with what is

alternative conceptions, getting students to commit to a experienced. If not, seek further explanations.

prediction and comparing the prediction with the 4. Introduce the analogy of water flowing in pipes as

outcome, and helping students reach appropriate a model for electrical circuits. Have student re-

conclusions on the basis of evidence. The teacher explain what is happening in steps 1-3 using the

consciously elicits students preconceptions, and then water-in-pipes analogy. Students should relate the

confronts and resolves any that are identified. The terms of pressure (voltage), flow (amperage), and

teacher begins to seek additional direction from the resistance.

students beginning to shift the locus of control from 5. Introduce the voltmeter and ammeter, and explain

teacher to students. The teacher models appropriate their use. Repeat steps 1-3, this time observing

scientific procedures thereby implicitly teaching the current, voltage, and resistance at teach step. Have

inquiry process. students make a table of data for each circuit

configuration and then attempt to identify the

A Detailed Example of an Interactive Demonstration relationships between voltage and current, current

and resistance.

Consider the interactive-demonstration component

in Table 3. Students are introduced to multimeters as a While going through interactive demonstrations,

means of measuring voltage, current, and resistance. students employ basic intellectual process skills, as

Principles first proposed in the discovery-learning well as others that they demonstrated in the first phase

phase are examined. Focus is now placed an of the learning sequence. These more sophisticated

explanation of observations made during discovery- intellectual processes include such things as the

learning phase. The teacher proposes the analogy of following: predicting, explaining, estimating,

water flowing in a pipe as a model for electrical flow. acquiring and processing data, formulating and

Students analyze alterative explanations and models. revising scientific explanations using logic and

The students are asked to pay attention to the evidence, and recognizing and analyzing alterative

simple electric circuit that is shown by a teacher in explanations and models. Notice, too, that

front of class. Students are asked to observe what responsibility for critical thinking is slowly beginning

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 15 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

to become the purview of students. Note, again, that resistance increases and the light bulbs together

the teacher models appropriate scientific procedures are dimmer than one alone. So, the greater the

thereby implicitly teaching the inquiry process. At the resistance, the less current there is flowing through

same time, the teacher begins to explicitly teach a circuit.

general procedures and practices of science (see T. Good. Now, today we will spend some time

Wenning, 2006).
learning the precise relationships between these

variables all three of them in fact. Examine the

Inquiry Lesson simple series circuit I have before me a power

supply, a set of differently valued resistors, and

The pedagogy of an inquiry lesson is one in which wires for making complete circuits. Here are two

the activity is based upon the teacher slowly multimeters that will be used measure both the

relinquishing charge of the activity by providing voltage across and the current through any

guiding, indeed leading, questions. The teacher places resistors used in the circuit or circuits we build.

increasing emphasis on helping students to formulating Now, how can I conduct a controlled experiment

their own experimental approaches, how they would to find the relationship between say voltage and

identify and control variables, and define the system. current?

The students are asked to demonstrate how they might S. Using one resistor, vary the voltage while

conduct a controlled experiment. The teacher now observing the current. The resistance will be held

speaks about scientific process explicitly by providing constant a parameter of the system. While the

an ongoing commentary about the nature of inquiry. voltage is varied, watch the value of the current.

Then, make a graph of voltage versus current to

A Detailed Example of an Inquiry Lesson see how they are related. Examine the slopes of

any linear relationships that might be found, and

Consider the inquiry lesson component in Table 3. relate them to the system parameters.

The teacher uses a think aloud protocol and Socratic T. Excellent, lets do just that. (Teacher observes as

dialogue to help students derive a mathematical student collect and record data, make and interpret

relationship between current and voltage for a series a graph. The students then communicate the results

circuit containing a power supply and a single resistor. of the experiment.)

This is done a second and third time with 2 and then 3 S. We found that current is proportional to voltage

roughly identical resistors in series. In effect, students for a given resistance. The form of the specific

derive various parts of Ohms Law. Socratic dialogue relationship we found was V=IR.

is use to generate the more general relationship V=IR. T. So, how can we generalize this relationship for all

Students are confronted with the question, What values of R?

is the relationship between current, voltage, and S. We could conduct the experiment again and again

resistance? Now, a teacher could merely tell them the using a different value of resistance each time.

relationship known as Ohms law, V=IR, but this T. Thats acceptable; lets give it a try.

defeats the purpose of science education that sees

students as independent thinkers who can draw their While going through inquiry lessons, students

own conclusions based on evidence. Determining the employ intermediate intellectual process skills, as well

relationship for the first time can be much more as others that they demonstrated in earlier phases of the

instructive for students, as well as more interesting. learning sequence. These more sophisticated

Consider the following inquiry-based approach. T intellectual processes include the following: measuring,

stands for teacher talk, and S stands for student talk. collecting and recording data, constructing a table of

data, designing and conducting scientific

T: So, who can summarize from our earlier investigations, using technology and math during

experiences what the relationships are between, investigations, and describing relationships.

say, current and voltage, and current and

resistance? Inquiry Labs

S. When voltage is increased, the current also

increases. Inquiry labs generally will consist of students

T. And how do you actually know that? more or less independently developing and executing

S. When we put more batteries together in series, the an experimental plan and collecting appropriate data.

brightness of the light bulbs increased. These data are then analyzed to find a law a precise

T. Good, and who can tell me about the relationship relationship among variables. Students involved in an

between resistance and current? inquiry lab are more independent in terms of

S. When light bulbs are added in series their formulating and conducting an experiment that in any

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 16 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

level of inquiry that precedes it. The teacher is present investigations, and using technology and math during

to assist with difficulties, but the primary responsibility investigations.

for designing an experiment, using technology to

collect data, analyzing and interpreting the data, and Textbook and Authentic Real-world Applications

communicating the results is borne by the students.

This inquiry lab approach is not to be confused with Real-world applications in the inquiry spectrum

the traditional cookbook laboratory activity. The consists of two types of problem solving completing

distinction between traditional cookbook labs textbook-based end-of-chapter problems or conducting

(sometimes called structured inquiry) and true authentic investigations. Solving simple textbook

inquiry-oriented labs is profound (Wenning & problems does not generally lend itself to use with the

Wenning, 2006). learning cycle as this type of problem solving consists

A Detailed Example of an Inquiry Lab primarily of applying current knowledge to new

situations in a mathematical sense. Still, this is an

Consider the inquiry lab component in Table 3. important element of learning to apply science to real-

Students find relationships between resistors in series world situations. There are well-known frameworks for

and then in parallel working in small groups. Before structured problem solving that can be recommended

students begin working on parallel circuits, they are such as that developed by Heller & Anderson (1992).

introduced to the concept of the inverse ohm or mho While end-of-chapter problems can be beefed up

(with the unit of 1/ or ) a measure of electrical with the use of increased context as in the case of

conductance or admittance to make finding the context-rich problem solving (Physics Education

parallel relationship simpler. The y-intercept is related Research and Development Group, 2012), they still not

to the system parameter the value of the fixed provide the authenticity of real-world situations.

resistor. In authentic real-world problem solving, students

In the first part of this two-part lab students use conduct either issues-based problem solving (e.g.,

inductive reasoning to show that as resistors are added dealing with the science-technology-society interface

in series, the total value of the resistance is explained such as whether a low-level nuclear waste dump, a

by the following relationship: wind farm, or a nuclear power plant should be built in a

community) or project-based problem solving (e.g.

Rt = R1 + R2 + R3 + . engineering solutions to specific problems). Only real-

world applications such as these teach the great variety

During the second part of the lab students build a of necessary problem-solving skills in a real-world

parallel circuit using a fixed resistor (the value of context.

which is a system parameter) and a variable resistor. A

multimeter is used to measure the equivalent Examples of Real-world Applications

resistance. Plotting the equivalent resistance in mhos

and the independent resistance in mhos, the students Following the development of Ohms law and the

find a linear relationship with a non-zero intercept. equivalent resistances for parallel and series circuits, it

Replacing the mho variables with inverse resistance is fruitful to have students apply this information in

variables, the students discover the expected inverse textbook-based circuit analysis. Students can determine

relationship. The parameter of the system is identified voltage drops across and currents through various

with its inverse resistance. That is, students find the resistors and equivalent resistances for various part of

following relationship: or an entire circuit.

The utility of physics can be driven home through

1 1 1 the use of problem-based learning in which students

= + conduct an efficiency analysis of their own homes or

Rt R1 R2

through the use of project-based learning in which

While going through inquiry labs, students employ students wire a scale model of a home. In doing the

integrated intellectual process skills, as well as others former students examine the power ratings of

that they demonstrated in earlier phases of the learning household appliances and light bulbs, and relate this to

sequence. Typical of this aspect of the sequence, the months electrical bill. In doing the latter, students

students will commonly utilize the following wire parallel circuits, work on current requirements,

intellectual process skills: measuring metrically, figure out suitable gauges of wire to use for various

establishing empirical laws on the basis of evidence appliances mimicked by light bulbs, figure out two-

and logic, designing and conducting scientific way switches, and can even put in working fuses. The

possibilities are almost endless.

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 17 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

While working their way through real-world for resistors holds because of the conservation of

applications, students learn to employ culminating charge.

intellectual process skills: collecting, assessing, and

1 1 1

interpreting data from a variety of sources; constructing = +

logical arguments based on scientific evidence; making Rt R1 R2

and defending evidence-based decisions and 1 In

judgments; clarifying values in relation to natural and = (Ohm"s Law)

Rn Vn

civil rights; and practicing interpersonal skills.

I t I1 I 2

= +

Pure and Applied Hypothetical Inquiry Vt V1 V2

Vt = V1 = V2

Hypothetical inquiry can take on two forms as

I t = I1 + I 2

described in the inquiry spectrum pure hypothetical

inquiry and applied hypothetic inquiry. Both versions In terms of applied hypothetical inquiry, students

are geared toward developing explanations about why might be confronted with a rather confusing electrical

things are or work the way they do. Pure hypothetical circuitsuch as that shown in Figure 1. Using their

inquiry is research made without any expectation of knowledge of the conservation energy and charge in an

application to real-world problems; it is conducted electrical circuit (essentially Kirchhoffs loop and

solely with the goal of extending our understanding of junction rules), as well as the resistor and battery

the laws of nature. Applied hypothetical inquiry is values, students can hypothesize how current flows

geared toward finding applications of prior knowledge through a circuit and, on the basis of Ohms law,

to new problems. The two types of hypothetical inquiry predict the voltage drop over each resistor. By

essentially employ the same intellectual processes; they comparing predictions with experimental values,

tend to differ on the basis of their goals. students can refine their knowledge of current flow and

voltage drop in a complex circuit.

Detailed Examples of Hypothetical Inquiry

Table 3. In the area of pure hypothetical inquiry,

students use Ohms law and resistance relationships to

explain why resistance in series is additive

(conservation of energy) and why resistance in parallel

inversely additive (conservation of charge). In the area

of applied hypothetical inquiry, students can be Figure 1. A complex circuit for applied hypothetical

presented with an array of circuit puzzles. They form analysis and testing.

hypotheses as to how current flows in a given circuit

using their understanding of conservation of charge and While going through hypothetical inquiry, students

energy. Based on their understanding, they predict the employ advanced intellectual process skills, as well as

direction and amount of current flow in each branch of others that they demonstrated in earlier phases of the

various circuits. They then use meters to check their learning sequence. These more sophisticated

prediction and revise hypotheses in light of the intellectual processes include the following:

evidence. Consider first the underlying cause for the synthesizing complex hypothetical explanations,

series relationship for resistor: analyzing and evaluating scientific arguments,

generating predictions through the process of

Rt = R1 + R2 + R3

deduction, revising hypotheses and predictions in light

Vn of new evidence, and solving complex real-word

Rn = (Ohm"s Law)

In problems. This process provides the added bonuses of

helping students understand the joy and mystery of the

Vt V1 V2 V3

= + + scientific endeavor, as well as developing a broader

I t I1 I 2 I 3 understanding of the nature of science and respect for

I t = I1 = I 2 = I 3 its processes.

Vt = V1 + V2 + V3

Applications of Learning

That is, the series law for resistors holds because Readers are cautioned that while inquiry is at the

of conservation of energy. Similarly, the parallel law heart of the learning sequence, by no means is the

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 18 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

application of knowledge to be divorced from the principles, which are themselves derived from

educational process. Helping students to learn content induction, shows a more comprehensive view of the

without application is akin to educational malfeasance nature of science. Throughout the educational process,

for what else is the purpose of education? Clearly students should be required to utilize their knowledge

students will have learned to work in groups, use discovered through the inquiry process. They might be

technology, make observations, draw conclusions, given worksheets, problem sets, case studies, projects

communicate results, and so on through the use of and so on dealing with the various principles and laws

inquiry practices. Still, inquiry would not be complete learned in the classroom.

if applications of newfound knowledge are not made.

A teacher need not wait until the end of the An Inquiry Spectrum Redux

learning sequence to have students utilize knowledge

gleaned from the inquiry process to practical, real- To more fully appreciate what the inquiry

world problems. Algebraic problem solving is quite a spectrum does for both teacher and students, it is

natural process that will result from students findings. imperative to examine the primary pedagogical

They can use formulas to predict and then verify the purposes of each of the levels of scientific inquiry.

results of inductive work the hallmark of scientific They are outlined in Table 4.

work. Deducting predictions base on laws and

Discovery learning Develop concepts on the basis of first-hand experiences; introduce terms.

Interactive demonstration Elicit, identify, confront, and resolve alternative conceptions.

Inquiry lesson Identify scientific principles and/or relationships.

Inquiry labs Establish empirical laws based on measurement of variables.

Real-world applications Apply prior knowledge to authentic problems.

Hypothetical inquiry Derive explanations for observed phenomena.

Table 4. Primary focus of each of the six main levels of scientific inquiry. This table is suggestive, not definitive.

The roles that various intellectual process skills introduction of a new class of intellectual process skills

play in each of the levels of scientific inquiry are intermediate skills in the third column. This table in

detailed in Table 5 found on the following page. This it entirety is intended to be suggestive, not definitive.

table is a refinement of Table 5 in Wenning (2005). Levels of inquiry, lesson sequences, and

The revision is based on the explication of Levels of classification of their associated skills will continue to

Inquiry in this article. Each of the skills is now be refined as more sequences are developed and

partitioned differently and linked to an increasingly research is conducted. Such is the development of an

sophisticate hierarchy of inquiry processes. Note the educational theory.

Learning Demonstration Lesson Labs Applications Inquiry

Rudimentary skills: Basic skills: Intermediate skills: Integrated skills: Culminating skills: Advanced skills:

formulating explaining collecting and metrically and interpreting data hypothetical

concepts estimating recording data establishing from a variety of explanations

estimating acquiring and constructing a table empirical laws on sources analyzing and

drawing processing data of data the basis of constructing logical evaluating scientific

conclusions formulating and designing and evidence and arguments based on arguments

communicating revising scientific conducting logic scientific evidence generating predictions

results explanations using scientific designing and making and defending through the process of

classifying logic and evidence investigations conducting evidence-based deduction

results recognizing and using technology scientific decisions and judgments revising hypotheses

analyzing alterative and math during investigations clarifying values in and predictions in light

explanations and investigations using technology relation to natural and of new evidence

models describing and math during civil rights solving complex real-

relationships investigations practicing interpersonal word problems

skills

Table 5. A refined notion of which intellectual process skills are most closely associated with the six various levels

of scientific inquiry. This table is a refinement of Table 5 appearing in Wenning (2005).

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 19 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

References:

Science (1990). Science for All Americans:

Project 2061, Washington, DC: Author.

Costenson, K. & Lawson, A.E. (1986). Why isn't

inquiry used in more classrooms? The American

Biology Teacher, 48(3), 150-158.

National Research Council (1996). National Science

Education Standards, Washington, DC: National

Academy Press.

Wenning, C.J. (2005a). Levels of inquiry:

Hierarchies of pedagogical practices and inquiry

processes. Journal of Physics Teacher Education

Online, 2(3), February 2005, pp. 3-11. Available:

http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/levels_

of_inquiry.pdf

Wenning, C.J. (2005b). Whiteboarding and Socratic

dialogues: Questions and answers. Journal of

Physics Teacher Education Online, 3(1), pp. 3-

10. Available:

http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/whiteb

oard_dialogues.pdf

Wenning, C.J. (2006). A framework for teaching the

nature of science. Journal of Physics Teacher

Education Online, 3(3), pp. 3-10. Available:

http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/teachi

ng_NOS.pdf

Wenning, C.J., Holbrook, T.W., & Stankevitz, J.

(2006b). Engaging students in conducting

Socratic dialogues: Suggestions for science

teachers. Journal of Physics Teacher Education

Online, 4(1), pp. 10-13. Available:

http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/engagi

ng_students.pdf

Wenning, C.J. & Wenning, R.M. (2006). A generic

model for inquiry-oriented labs in postsecondary

introductory physics. Journal of Physics Teacher

Education Online, 3(3), March 2006, pp. 24-33.

Available:

http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/generi

c_model.pdf

J. Phys. Tchr. Educ. Online, 5(3), Winter 2010 Page 20 2010 Illinois State University Physics Dept.

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