Teaching Science Through Inquiry

Book Review
By Audra Brown Ward
Llewellyn, Douglas (2005) Teaching High School Science Through Inquiry: A Case Study
Approach. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.; 210pp.
In the first two chapters of this book, Llewellyn defines inquiry learning and how to learn about and
understand inquiry in order to incorporate it into the classroom. As a basis for his discussion, he begins
with the definition of inquiry as stated on page 23 of the National Science Education Standards:
Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions;
examining books 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 the results. Inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and
logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations. Students will engage in
selected aspects of inquiry as they learn the scientific way of knowing the natural world, but
they also should develop the capacity to conduct complete inquiries.
Chapter 1 ends with Llewellyn addressing ten common concerns that teachers tend to have about
inquiry. Chapter 2 provides a case study focusing on isopods that could be used in a biology classroom.
This is the basis for a discussion on the inquiry cycle and the essential elements of an inquiry lesson,
namely (from page 24):
q Generating a question or problem to be solved
q Brainstorming possible solutions to a problem
q Stating a hypothesis to test
q Choosing a course of action and carrying out the procedures of the investigation
q Gathering and recording the data through observation and instrumentation to draw
appropriate conclusions
q Communicating the findings
In chapters three and four, Llewellyn talks about developing a philosophy of inquiry and how inquiry
science classrooms differ from traditional science classrooms. He spends a time discussing
constructivism- the idea that people construct knowledge about the world within the context of what
they already know- and comparing traditional classrooms to constructivist classrooms. He also
provides a rather boring historical perspective on constructivism that doesn’t really add to the
usefulness of the book at all. He does an excellent job, however, of explaining the 5E learning cycle and
the challenges associated with incorporating it into the classroom. Llewellyn explicitly states the
features of an inquiry-based classroom in terms of atmosphere, characteristics of students, and
characteristics of teachers. He lists 40 things that teachers should do! It is impossible to incorporate it
all at once, but I appreciate that he provides concrete goals to achieve over time as I embark upon my
personal journey toward inquiry in my classroom.
Chapters 5-8 provide concrete steps for incorporating inquiry into a science classroom. In chapter 5,
Llewellyn talks about the difference between teacher-initiated inquiry and student-initiated inquiry,
and then talks about how teachers can guide students into inquiry over the course of a school year.
Chapter 6 was one of my favorite chapters, as this is where Llewellyn explains how to modify a
“cookbook” lab into an inquiry lab. This is one of the few articles or books that I’ve read about inquiry
that actually explains what to do to get to inquiry while still allowing for the creativity of the teacher. In
chapter 7, classroom management is discussed. One of my favorite parts of this chapter is the section
entitled “Develop a Sense of Urgency,” where he talks about creating an environment that is not laid
back and students know coming into the classroom that there are goals to be accomplished every day
and that it will take the entire period to do so. Much to my appreciation, several pages are devoted to
questioning techniques and how to move students from just wanting to get the answer to thinking about
their own answers. Chapter 8 is dedicated to assessment in the inquiry classroom. Surprisingly,
Llewellyn is not anti-test, but encourage the use of multiple types of questions on a test in order to give
students the opportunity to demonstrate evidence of mastery of the information.
Chapters 9-12 are case studies of how teachers of particular subjects- Biology, Earth Science, Chemistry
and Physics- have incorporated inquiry into their classrooms using specific lessons as examples.
The book concludes with a reflection on the teaching career of “Mr. Baker,” a teacher who-through
inquiry- inspired a student who later became a teacher himself.
The last section of the book contains a variety of print and multimedia resources for teachers to obtain
more information on constructivism and incorporating inquiry in the classroom.