Characteristics of Scientific Inquiry

The Five Features of Science Inquiry: How do you know?

Teaching science through scientific enquiry is the cornerstone of effective science instruction. Unfortunatelly, an inquiry-based approach to science education is not the standard in most schools today “Many teachers are still working to develop a shared understanding of what science as inquiry implies, as well as what it looks like in the classroom on a more practical level (Keeley, 2008). ” Focusing on the definition offered by the National Research Council is a good place to start when trying to figure out what “scientific inquiry” is and what it entails.

The 5 features of science inquiry (emphasis is mine)

The campaign for the newsletter has come to an end.

The five characteristics of scientific investigation (emphasis is mine)

The learner participates in questions that are scientifically oriented.

When responding to questions, the learner prioritises the use of evidence.

The learner develops explanations based on the evidence.

The learner makes the connection between explanations and scientific knowledge.

Explanations are communicated and justified by the learner.

Despite the fact that each component is critical, take note of how frequently the phrases “evidence” and “explanation” are used. The ability to assist students in using evidence to develop explanations for natural events is essential to the process of scientific inquiry. Sampson and Groom write (emphasis mine) the following in their article, Argument Driven Inquiry:

Some practical classroom examples of giving priority to evidence

“As outlined in America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science (200), published by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council (NRC) makes several recommendations for how laboratory activities can be modified to improve students’ skills and understanding of science. These recommendations include: The first step is for laboratory activities to become more inquiry-based so that students can develop practical skills as well as a knowledge of the ambiguity and complexity that are associated with empirical research in scientific fields. Second, students must opportunities to read, write, and participate in critical debates while they are at work in order to be successful. It is also critical to encourage students to develop or evaluate arguments (i.e., an explanation supported by one or more reasons), as well as to incorporate diagnostic, formative, and educative assessment into the instructional sequence.”

Many different strategies can be used to support the formation and criticising of arguments in your classroom. Here are a few examples. It should be one of the most commonly asked questions in your classroom, “How did you find out?” You should anticipate that student responses (verbal or written) will include supporting evidence. Also search for opportunities for students to analyse the use of evidence in science news, reports, and other media, such as television, radio, and newspapers.

Here are some real-world examples of how to prioritise evidence in the classroom.

With the help of a tale about a mystery death, Mallory Fredrickson, a middle school science teacher at New Richmond Middle School in Wisconsin, introduces her students to the notion of providing evidence-based answers. As they read the story, students look for evidence to support their theories concerning Mr. Brown’s death. “They realised how it’s [connected to] science and how I hope to see students come up with explanations in this manner throughout the year,” Mallory adds further.

Mr. Chad Janowski and his colleagues at Shawano High School (WI) set standard laboratory expectations for their students, which include clearly requesting them to offer the evidence that supports their conclusions, as well as a rationale that ties the evidence to the assertion. Chad points us that using evidence is not always a given “The revised laboratory report expectations were distributed to my students on Friday, and I watched as they struggled to complete them. We will watch how they progress as they use it throughout the year, and I am looking forward to seeing their results.”

“Evidence buckets,” created by Brian, a high school teacher who collaborated with academics at the University of Washington, were used to assist students arrange data from their laboratory experience. Students were able to easily create connections between different pieces of information as they attempted to make sense of the activities in class. Evidence buckets are demonstrated in action in a video available at

To use with her 2nd grade pupils, Lisa Sullivan, a teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, customised evidence buckets to fit her needs. She guided her children through a number of tasks by asking them the question, “Does air take up space?” She next guided them through the process of organising their observations using evidence buckets. Lisa made the following observation: “When I realised that we wouldn’t be able to build an evidence bucket until they understood exactly what evidence was, I was relieved. One of the children stated that he was aware that evidence was utilised in court. This was an excellent example, and I explained to them that evidence was defined as what individuals observed. It could be used to demonstrate something or to assist in the explanation of an idea.” She went on to say, “After we finished filling out our evidence bucket, I asked a few children to raise their hands and tell me what they would respond if they were posed the question: Does air take up space? They all raised their hands. In my response, I advised them that the more evidence they provided in their response, the more probable it was that the individual would accept their explanation. They performed an excellent job of tying their arguments to the evidence collection buckets.”