Research in Science Education

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 589–608 | Cite as

The Challenges of Science Inquiry Teaching for Pre-Service Teachers in Elementary Classrooms: Difficulties on and under the Scene

  • Hye-Gyoung Yoon
  • Yong Jae Joung
  • Mijung Kim


In the context of the emphasis on inquiry teaching in science education, this study looks into how pre-service elementary teachers understand and practise science inquiry teaching during field experience. By examining inquiry lesson preparation, practice, and reflections of pre-service elementary teachers, we attempt to understand the difficulties they encounter and what could result from those difficulties in their practice. A total of 16 seniors (fourth-year students) in an elementary teacher education program participated in this study. In our findings, we highlight three difficulties ‘on the lesson’ that are related to teaching practices that were missing in the classrooms: (1) developing children’s own ideas and curiosity, (2) guiding children in designing valid experiments for their hypotheses, (3) scaffolding children’s data interpretation and discussion and another three difficulties ‘under the lesson’ that are related to problems with the pre-service teachers’ conceptualization of the task: (4) tension between guided and open inquiry, (5) incomplete understanding of hypothesis, and (6) lack of confidence in science content knowledge. Based on these findings, we discuss how these difficulties are complexly related in the pre-service teachers’ understandings and action. Several suggestions for science teacher education for inquiry teaching, especially hypothesis-based inquiry teaching, are then explored.


Field experience Hypothesis-based inquiry Pre-service elementary teacher Reflection Science inquiry teaching 



This work was supported by the Research Council of the Chnucheon National University of Education in 2008.


  1. Abd-El Khalick, F., Boujaoude, S., Lederman, N., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., Niaz, M., et al. (2004). Inquiry in science education: international perspectives. Science Education, 88(3), 397–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for all Americans: Project 2061. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, R. D. (1996). Study of curriculum reform. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, R. D. (2002). Reforming science teaching: what research says about inquiry. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Appleton, K. (2002). Science activities that work: perceptions of primary school teachers. Research in Science Education, 32(3), 393–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ball, D. L. (2000). Bridging practices: intertwining content and pedagogy in teaching and learning to teach. Journal of Teacher Education, 51(3), 241–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chiapetta, E., & Adams, E. (2000). Towards a conception of teaching science and inquiry: The place of content and process. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. New Orleans.Google Scholar
  8. Crawford, B. A. (2007). Learning to teach science as inquiry in the rough and tumble of practice. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(4), 613–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st-century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(3), 300–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DeBoer, G. E. (1991). A history of ideas in science education: Implication for practices. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dewey, J. (1900). The school and the life of the child. In J. Dewey (Ed.), The school and society (pp. 30–62). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Engel Clough, E., & Driver, R. (1985). Secondary students’ conceptions of the conduction of heat: bringing together scientific and personal view. Physics Education, 20, 176–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flick, U. (2006). An introduction of qualitative research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Gilbert, C., & Matthews, P. (1986). Look! Primary science: Teacher’s guide A. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.Google Scholar
  15. Guisasola, J., Ceberio, M., & Zubimendi, J. L. (2006). University students’ strategies for constructing hypothesis when tackling paper-and-pencil tasks in physics. Research in Science Education, 36(3), 163–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gustafson, B., Guilbert, S., & MacDonald, D. (2002). Beginning elementary science teachers: developing professional knowledge during a limited mentoring experience. Research in Science Education, 32(3), 281–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hanson, N. R. (1958). Patterns of discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hempel, C. G. (1966). Philosophy of natural science. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  19. Jeong, J.-S., & Kwon, Y.-J. (2006). Definition of scientific hypothesis: a generalization or a casual explanation? Journal of the Korean Association for Research in Science Education, 26(5), 637–645.Google Scholar
  20. Joung, Y. J. (2008). Cases and features of abductive inference conducted by a young child to explain natural phenomena in everyday life. Journal of the Korean Association for Research in Science Education, 28(3), 197–210.Google Scholar
  21. Kielborn, T. L., & Gilmer, P. J. (Eds.). (1999). Meaningful science: Teachers doing inquiry + teaching science. Tallahassee: SERVE.Google Scholar
  22. Klahr, D., & Dunbar, K. (1988). Dual space search during scientific reasoning. Cognitive Science, 12(1), 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kwon, Y.-J., Jeong, J.-S., Park, Y.-B., & Yang, I.-H. (2003). Children’s generating hypotheses on the pendulum motion: roles of abductive reasoning and prior knowledge. Journal of Korean Earth Science Society, 24(6), 524–532.Google Scholar
  24. Kwon, Y.-J., Shim, H.-S., Jeong, J.-S., & Park, K.-T. (2003). Role of process of abduction in elementary school students’ generation of hypotheses concerning vapor condensation. Journal of Korean Earth Science Society, 24(4), 250–257. Written in Korean with English abstract.Google Scholar
  25. Lawson, A. E. (1995). Science teaching and the development of thinking. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  26. Lee, K.-W., Tan, L.-L., Goh, N.-K., Lee, K.-W., Chia, L.-S., & Chin, C. (2000). Science teachers and problem solving in elementary schools in Singapore. Research in Science & Technological Education, 18(1), 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marx, R. W., Blumenfield, P. C., Krajcik, J. S., Blunk, M., Crawford, B. A., & Meyer, K. M. (1994). Enacting project based science: experiences of four middle grade teachers. Elementary School Journal, 94, 517–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Messina, D., DeWalter, L., & Stetzer, M. (2005). Helping preservice teachers implement and assess research-based instruction in K-12 classrooms. In J. Marks, P. Heron, & S. Franklin (Eds.), 2004 Physics education research conference proceedings (pp. 97–100). USA: American Institute of Physics.Google Scholar
  29. Millar, R. (1989). What is scientific method and can it be taught? In J. Wellington (Ed.), Skills and processes in science education: A critical analysis (pp. 47–62). London: Rutledge.Google Scholar
  30. Minstrell, J., & Van Zee, E. H. (Eds.). (2000). Inquiring into inquiry learning and teaching in science. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  31. Mule, L. (2006). Preservice teachers’ inquiry in a professional development school context: implications for the practicum. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(2), 208–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington: National Academy.Google Scholar
  33. National Research Council. (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington: National Academy.Google Scholar
  34. Park, J. (2006). Modeling analysis of students’ processes of generating scientific explanatory hypotheses. International Journal of Science Education, 28(5), 469–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research method. Newbery Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Peirce, C. S. (1998a). The fixation of belief. In C. Hartshorne & P. Weiss (Eds.), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. 5 (pp. 223–247). Bristol: Thoemmes Press.Google Scholar
  37. Peirce, C. S. (1998b). Abduction. In A. W. Burks (Ed.), Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. 7 (pp. 136–144). Bristol: Thoemmes Press.Google Scholar
  38. Ruffman, T., Perner, J., Olson, D., & Doherty, M. (1993). Reflecting on scientific thinking: children’s understanding of the hypothesis-evidence relation. Child Development, 64, 1617–1636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schwab, J. J. (1962). The teaching of science as enquiry. In J. J. Schwab & P. F. Brandwein (Eds.), The teaching of science (pp. 1–103). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (1980). UNESCO Handbook for science teacher. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  41. Wenham, M. (1993). The nature and role of hypotheses in school investigations. International Journal of Science Education, 15(3), 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Windschitl, M. (2003). Inquiry projects in science teacher education: what can investigative experiences reveal about teacher thinking and eventual classroom practice? Science Education, 87(1), 112–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Yoon, H.-G., & Kim, M. (2010). Collaborative reflection through dilemma cases of science practical work during practicum. International Journal of Science Education., 32(3), 283–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zion, M., Cohen, S., & Amir, R. (2007). The spectrum of dynamic inquiry teaching practice. Research in Science Education, 37(4), 423–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chuncheon National University of EducationChuncheonRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Gongju National University of EducationGongjuRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations