Inquiry Learning and the Nature of Science

 Teacher Seminar (Primary & Secondary)


The benefits, both cognitive and affective, to be gained from using an inquiry approach to learning in the science classroom are well documented, and present reform efforts around the world advocate such.


Participants in this 2-hour seminar will receive an extensive set of notes.

Click for brief video introduction


  • Being able to draw on the latest, and best, understandings in the areas of inquiry learning and the nature of science as a basis for better implementing science curricula.
  • Understanding what inquiry learning in Science means, how the different levels of inquiry can be distinguished, and why the confusion about inquiry learning exists.
  • Knowing which level of inquiry best promotes student science achievement, and which best promotes student interest in science.
  • Knowing the shortcomings of unguided inquiry, while also distinguishing the degree of guidance and the degree of direction provided.
  • The opportunity to address misconceptions about issues that include open inquiry, the scientific method, and use of the terms hypothesis, prediction, and conclusion (and even law, theory, and embedded theory). Even textbooks are getting the terminology wrong!
  • Understanding why too much attention is being given to the investigation of descriptive questions at the expense of causal questions. Indeed, many students are never provided the opportunity to answer a causal question by investigation, yet this process is critical to the development of an understanding of the nature of science.
  • Understanding why reports of descriptive and causal investigations require different headings, why a hypothesis is not needed in every student investigation, and why some investigative reports require a summary of results only while others require a conclusion.
  • Being able to distinguish scientific and non-scientific claims.
  • Appreciating how the use of different types of learning cycle can transform the classroom experience for students, turning dull activities into highly engaging investigations.
  • Understanding how inquiry might be used in school science in different time-period contexts, from a single activity through a segment of work within a unit to an extended project.
  • Being able to draw on the Inquiry Classroom Management Checklist. And more.

Optional Assignments

Two optional assignments are available for those seeking 3 hours of additional credit (5 h in total) for completing a professional development course. Please click here for information about these assignments.

About the Presenter

  • Passionate about science education
  • Qualifications: PhD (Science Education), BSc (Honours, Phys. Chem.), DipEd
  • Author of Physics Spectrum: Constructing an Understanding of Physics (Senior Physics text)
  • Founder and Former Editor, The Science Education Review
  • Author of numerous science education journal papers and articles 
  • Recipient of a BHP Science Teacher Award and a Service to Science Education Award
With a background that includes a first-class Honours degree in physical chemistry that required a research thesis, a PhD in science education that required a research thesis, a teaching career that began in 1978 and has included both state and independent schools, having been mentor of multiple state and national award-winning student groups in competitions that required scientific investigation, keeping up-to-date with the latest international literature in science education, and having a deep passion for science education, Peter is in a strong position to facilitate professional learning about, and reflection upon, inquiry learning.
For further information about the presenter, please click here .

Feedback From Participants

  • "Excellent, engaging discussion and conversational approach . . . wow, such stimulating ideas, great demonstrations . . . really interesting content that I can use, really use, in the classroom . . . can be used to differentiate . . . liked the way to address the science-religion question." Participants, Dubbo College Senior Campus, Dubbo, NSW
  • "Eye-opening, kept participants involved . . . Good practical suggestions, stopped to explore audience questions . . . Thought-provoking and challenging ideas related to my current pedagogical practices, ideas that I will use in class, provided renewed framework for approaching practical inquiries in my classes . . . very informative, challenged ideas indoctrinated by archaic textbooks and/or teacher training methods!" Participants (Secondary), Newcastle, NSW
  • "Entertaining, interesting demonstrations/ideas, I liked the misconceptions most . . . broad range of concepts/ideas to apply . . . clear explanation of inquiry learning and a hypothesis, approachable presentation style, sharing your 'world view' was good, as I appreciated the opportunity to hear a viewpoint on science with a broad background." Teachers, Southern Vales Christian College, Morphett Vale (Adelaide), SA
  • "Really engaging. . . . helpful and practical. . . . every person agreed that he/she had actually LEARNED something!!! . . . great that we now know how to use the terminology correctly. . . . we are all enthusiastic to have you present to us again." Cate Gecas, Science Coordinator, Koondoola Primary School, Perth, WA
  • "Another great seminar . . . 2 hours not enough and would like to attend the full-day workshop . . . ideas I can take back and use immediately . . . I now understand why I need to change some aspects of my teaching of science . . . the notes provided were thorough and excellent and it was great to receive these before the seminar." Participants, Fairholme College, Toowoomba, Qld
  • "I have recently spoken with a physics teacher who said that he knew several other physics teachers who were ready to quit teaching until they took inquiry/learning cycle workshops that not only transformed the way they teach but reinvigorated their careers and made teaching fun." Professor Anton Lawson, distinguished scholar in this field, Arizona, USA
  • "Great pre-reading, explained things very well, very engaging, lots of very good classroom ideas/techniques that I will definitely use . . . fantastic description of inquiry, distinguished levels of inquiry and also the difference between degree of direction and guidance . . . well-structured, good discussion, open minded, very comfortable environment . . . good advice for restructuring curricula to incorporate more inquiry learning, student-centered, good websites and links. . . allowed open discussion of questions raised by participants and answered all of them well, the practical activities worked well, you obviously have a high level of knowledge in scientific and inquiry education . . . very helpful and refreshing, reminders of what we're not doing . . . I loved the simulated classroom, great booklet of notes, I loved it all!!! . . . clear, interesting voice, easy to listen to, well-paced and non-threatening, well scaffolded and aimed at all teachers--primary as well as high school . . . it was great to go to a PD session and actually learn lots . . . good balance of lecture and activity, had a great day—thank-you!" Participants, Adelaide

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