Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)




Daniel K. Capps

Second Committee Member

Jonathan T. Shemwell

Third Committee Member

Craig A. Mason


Although national standards call for teaching science through inquiry, many teachers do not understand what inquiry is. In an attempt to specify what is meant by inquiry, the new Framework for K-12 Science Education articulates eight scientific practices that are used by scientists. To gain a better understanding of highly motivated science teachers’ knowledge of inquiry and reported use of scientific practices, we surveyed 149, K-12 science teachers at the 2012 National Science Teachers Association annual conference. Findings indicated the majority of these teachers had an understanding of inquiry that did not align with descriptions of inquiry in reform documents. Few teachers equated inquiry with the scientific practices from the Framework, and those who did only mentioned a subset of the practices. Surprisingly, most of these motivated teachers had not read key reform documents about inquiry. Results also suggest teachers had difficulty distinguishing between some of the scientific practices. Several factors were correlated with teachers’ reported use of inquiry, including teachers’ background experience, such as if they have read national standards, and school characteristics, such as if the curriculum they use supports inquiry-based instruction. Results from this study can be used to inform the science education community about highly motivated teachers’ understanding of inquiry and the use of scientific practices in classrooms across the country. Further, they may help explain how these practices are influenced by teacher knowledge and other background factors. Finally, this research will provide important information for teacher education programs and teacher professional development.