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EI and the National StandardsNational Science Education Standards Book Cover
The contemporary movement for science education reform calls for the teaching of science to more closely reflect the way in which science is practiced. According to the National Science Education Standards, the central strategy for teaching science should be to engage students in authentic inquiry or research:

Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with the processes of inquiry, including asking questions, planning and conducting an investigation, using appropriate tools and techniques, thinking critically and logically about the relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments1.

The Science as Inquiry standards call for all students to develop the following abilities:

  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations
  • Design and conduct scientific investigations
  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models
  • Communicate and defend a scientific argument2

Using a stepwise approach, EI research helps students gain all of these abilities as they design and carry out investigations, exchange ideas about their results and interpretations with peer student scientists, and make recommendations for future experiments. A progression of downloadable forms guides students through each step of the inquiry process, providing structure but flexibility in designing and conducting meaningful projects.

Students engaged in EI investigations also will learn concepts and skills covered in other standards, including Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, History and Nature of Science, Science and Technology, and Life Science.

1. National Research Council. 1996. National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p. 105.
2. National Science Education Standards, pp. 175-6.


Copyright 2009 Environmental Inquiry, Cornell University and Penn State University
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