From doing to learning : Inquiry- and context-based science education in primary school

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to develop an understanding of primary school teachers’ knowledge of Inquiry- and Context-Based Science Education (IC-BaSE) from different perspectives: what it is, how to use it and why these strategies are used. There are at least two reasons for performing research in this field. First, there is a need for professional development in teaching science among primary school teachers. Second, IC-BaSE has been suggested to provide useful instructional strategies for stimulating students’ interests in learning science. The thesis contains four papers with the overall research question: How do primary school teachers reflect on Inquiry- and Context-based Science Education as a framework for teaching and learning in the primary school classroom? Both quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used. The main participants in the studies were twelve primary school teachers working with 10-12 year old students. The results are discussed with reference to theories mainly based on pragmatism, but also from a sociocultural perspective. Primary school teachers found IC-BaSE to provide useful instructional strategies in the primary school classroom, as it engaged their students and developed their skills in planning inquiries. The teachers developed their knowledge about IC-BaSE, what it is and how to use it.  Furthermore, the primary purpose of using IC-BaSE seemed to be that students should have fun. Students also responded positive to the use of IC-BaSE. However when teachers were informed about their students’ responses to IC-BaSE, they became more aware of the importance of informing the students about the purposes of the activities. The findings presented show that teachers need to move forward, not only be “doing”, but also knowing why they are doing the activities and how to do them. Students’ experiences can contribute to this awareness among teachers and develop the teaching practice.