Tool IJ-2: IBL, inquiry skills and the nature of science

For this tool you will need the following resource:

  • IJ-2 PowerPoint

This tool aims to promote reflection among teachers on the purposes of science education. download_powerpointParticular emphasis will be placed on the need to allow individuals to understand not just the products, but also the processes of science. It will enable them to appreciate the value and validity of scientific knowledge and engage with many of the issues confronting contemporary society. Teachers discuss the potential of IBL to introduce students to scientific processes, to promote an adequate view of science and facilitate the development of process skills and critical thinking. Such learning outcomes are present in most national science curricula.

teamworkThe report “Science Education in Europe: Critical Reflections” for the Nuffield Foundation, by Osborne and Dillon (2008) claims:

“The primary goal of science education across the EU should be to educate students both about the major explanations of the material world that science offers and about the way science works”.

Science education should therefore present science as a key human activity, which provides the most important explanations we have of the material world. In addition, some understanding of the practices and processes of science is essential to appreciate the value of scientific knowledge and engage with many of the issues confronting contemporary society.

Use the quotation above as an introduction to make teachers realise that science education should allow students to work not just on science concepts, but also on scientific process. You could stimulate discussion by raising questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of introducing students to the use of scientific processes?
  • Why is it important to know about the way science works?


Ask the teachers to work in pairs to consider the following definition of Inquiry-Based Learning:

a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examiningbooks and other sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations and predictions; and communicating results. Inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations’ (National Research Council, 1996: 23).

Now ask them to discuss in pairs the following citation and make an argument about the extent to which IBL could promote an adequate view of science:

‘From a situated cognition perspective, knowledge is linked to activity and the situation under which the knowledge is acquired. Thus, scientific inquiry may provide a viable context for discussion and reflection within which learners can develop nature of science conceptions (Schwartz, Lederman and Crawford, 2004)’.

The group may want to spend some more time before the next session reading the two science reports used in this session, using the discussion questions from this session as a basis for further reflection.



Osborne, J., & Dillon, J. (2008). Science education in Europe: Critical reflections (Vol. 13). London: The Nuffield Foundation.

The National Science Education Standards report can be downloaded here.