Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Missy Bennett

Committee Member 1

Bryan Griffin

Committee Member 2

Jack Tessier

Committee Member 3

John Weaver

Committee Member 3 Email



Developing learners who are equipped to think critically about the vast information circulating around them is essential in their preparation for a role in society today. The use of effective inquiry-based instruction is not a widespread practice among K-12 classrooms. Many secondary and post-secondary science instructors see the valuable link between students asking questions and the development of critical thinking. Inquiry-based instruction provides student opportunities to ask questions, design methods of investigation, gather information, and finally reach conclusions based on evidence. However, this instruction style is rarely used in the classroom, particularly in elementary classrooms. This study examines the relationships between inquirybased instruction, science content knowledge and self-efficacy among pre-service elementary teachers. Using a mixed method (Quan. /qual.) study, the researcher examined two Life/Earth science classes of elementary pre-service teachers using inquiry-based and traditional instruction. Each class completed pre-assessment instruments to measure initial content knowledge, self-efficacy in science teaching, and the number of prior science courses. The first eight weeks of the semester during life science content, one class received inquiry-based instruction, while the other class received traditional instruction. At the midpoint of the semester, each class completed a posttest for life science content and a self-efficacy instrument modified to address efficacy in life science. Following this, a crossover method occurred for the remaining eight weeks of the semester during earth science content. The class that previously received inquiry instruction now received traditional instruction and the class that previously received traditional instruction, now received inquiry instruction. At the end of the semester, each class completed a posttest for earth science content and a self-efficacy instrument modified to address efficacy in earth science. ANCOVA, correlations, and independent t-tests were used to analyze the quantitative data. Focus group interviews of volunteers from each class were used to gather qualitative data on what pre-service teachers think about inquiry versus traditional instruction. The results showed a significant difference in life science content between inquiry-based and traditional instruction. There was no significant difference between earth science content, efficacy or expected teaching outcome in life or earth science. Correlation results show a significant relationship between prior courses and life science content, and between the Post Life Content and Post Earth Content scores. The Post Life Efficacy subscale was also statistically related to the Life Outcome subscale and the Earth Efficacy subscale.

Research Data and Supplementary Material