Unit 2: Identifying the Components of Inquiry in laboratory activities


Target Objective

Learners will be able to

  • identify the main components of inquiry learning in lab activities
  • how the level of inquiry can be varied based on the need of students and activity

Unit 2 Introduction

The National Science Education Standards state that "all science teachers are urged to use inquiry in their teaching" (NRC 1996). Incorporating varying levels of inquiry into your lab activities can be beneficial to both teacher and student. We will explore and cultivate the concept of varying the level of inquiry in lab activities, what it means for students' learning experience, and also teacher planning practices.
  • Think back to what you know about what makes a lab successful. Identify at least 3 things that contribute to the success of a lab activity
  • Think about the kinds of activities and labs you do in your science classroom. What are some components they all have in common?

Question to Consider During and especially After

1) What are the main components that Fay and Bretz consider to make up a lab activity? How do they use these to categorize levels of inquiry involved?


The article "Structuring the Level of Inquiry in your Science Classroom" shifts the emphasis from the general use of inquiry in science to more specifically, lab activities. With those lab activities, the concept of varying the level of inquiry within labs/activities is brought up. Finally, the article opens up about how incorporating various levels of inquiry based labs throughout the school year can be varied and which may be more beneficial in promoting life long learning. The significance of breaking down inquiry into components is that when you understand the components and their order, then you can apply it to any situation/concept in the classroom, a question you want students to look into or, a question they are interested in investigating.



  • Fay and Bretz(2008) make the comment that "the reality is that beginning science teachers who have not experiences inquiry as learners may find it difficult to implement such a curriculum in their own classrooms" (pg 38). Think back to your experience as a student in secondary education and college...what kind, if any, of inquiry did you experience? How do you think this has affected your teaching practices currently and in teaching in general? What kind of student benefits the most from varying levels of inquiry based labs?
  • Fay and Bretz show inquiry in 3 basic steps, while in "Project Based Learning, they showed 5 key components, and "WISE" breaks it down to 4 key design elements. Where and how to the components from "Project Based Learning" and "WISE" fit in with the 3 basic steps that Fay & Bretz break inquiry down into?


Bretz, Stacey L., & Fay, Michael E. 2008. Structuring the level of inquiry in your classroom. The Science Teacher; Summer 2008.
National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Varying the Level of Inquiry in Science Lab Activities

Unit 1: Understanding what Inquiry Based Learning Is

Unit 3: Designing an Inquiry Based Lab with varying levels of inquiry

Unit 4: Reflection and Evaluation