Journal of Elementary Science Education

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 15–33 | Cite as

Discourse of scientific inquiry in the elementary classroom

  • Andrea Mueller


This paper describes the range of language used by groups of students while working with materials in several elementary science classrooms. Specifically, it examines how students use language in small groups to discuss, clarify and build knowledge about the science task at hand. Opportunities for students to work in small groups during science activities and to develop a discourse of scientific inquiry are important for student learning in science and for understanding science as a process. Listening to such discourse would further educators’ understandings about how students build knowledge in a group and about how to improve students’ understandings. What does a discourse of scientific inquiry sound like in the elementary classroom?


Science Classroom Science Activity Scientific Explanation Killer Whale Elementary Science 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barnes, D., & Todd, F. (1977).Communication and learning in small groups. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.Google Scholar
  2. B.C. Ministry of Education. (1991).British Columbia assessment of science 1991 technical report II: Student performance component. Victoria: Queen’s Printer.Google Scholar
  3. Brooks, J., & Brooks, M. (1993).In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Google Scholar
  4. Carlsen, W. (1992). Closing down the conversation: Discouraging student talk on unfamiliar science content.Journal of Classroom Interaction, 27(2), 15–21.Google Scholar
  5. Cazden, C. (1988).Classroom Discourse. NH: Heinemann Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Gallas, K. (1995).Talking their way into science. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gibbons, M. (1990).The walkabout papers: Challenging students to challenge themselves. Vancouver: EduServ Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Goodlad, J. (1984).A place called school. New York: McGraw-Hill Co.Google Scholar
  9. Haussling, A., & Mueller, A. (1995). Lernen durch Hypothesenbilden: Eine praxisbezogene e Untersuchung.Sachunterricht und Mathematik in der Primarstufe, 11, 476–482.Google Scholar
  10. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1991).Learning together and alone. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.Google Scholar
  11. Keystone, D. (1992). Reflective questions. In J. Scott (Ed.),Science language links. (pp. 2–18). Heinemann.Google Scholar
  12. Lemke, J. (1990).Talking science: Language, learning and values. NJ: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Lunetta, V. (1990). Cooperative learning in science, mathematics, and computer problem solving. In M. Gardner et al. (Eds.),Toward a scientific practice of science education. (pp. 235–249). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  14. Meyer, K., & Woodruff, E. (March, 1995).A framework for inquiry discourse and consensus-building in science teaching. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  15. Meyer, K., & Woodruff, E. (April, 1996).Explanations from small and large group discourse within the science classroom. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Meyerson, M., Ford, M., Jones, W., & Ward, M. (1991). Science vocabulary knowledge of third and fifth grade students.Science Education, 75(4), 419–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mueller, A. (1994).Talking science in small groups. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Victoria, Canada.Google Scholar
  18. Scott, J. (1992).Science language links. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  19. Stubbs, M. (1976).Language, schools and classrooms. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.Google Scholar
  20. Tobin, K. (1990). Research on science laboratory activities: In pursuit of better questions and answers to improve learning.School Science and Mathematics, 90(5), 403–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Well, G., & Chang-Wells, G. L. (1992).Constructing knowledge together: Classrooms as centers of inquiry and literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  22. Whitehead, A. N. (1917).The organization of thought. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Mueller
    • 1
  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations