AbstractThe primary purpose of this study is to examine the impact of inquiry based learning in the middle school science classroom.  In addition the attitudes and perceptions of both the students and teachers involved will be studied.  The test group will be comprised of approximately 2,000 students and their teachers from three neighboring school districts.  Students will complete pre and post tests concerning their science content knowledge and attitudes towards science.  Teachers will complete a survey examining their perceptions of inquiry based learning and the impact it has on their students. Demonstrating that students understand better through inquiry-based learning will create the need for inquiry on a day to day basis in the science classroom.              Chapter One –IntroductionA science classroom should be an exciting learning environment where students are wondering “why” and finding out” how”. Students should be asking questions, resolving discrepancies, figuring out patterns, representing ideas, discussing information, and solving problems (Chiappetta,1997).  This vision of science teaching is associated with the term inquiry.Science educators have been recommending that learning with inquiry be placed at the core of science instruction since the early 1960’s (Ediger, 2001).  Science education standards in the United States advocate that all students learn about scientificinquiry and learn science through inquiry (National Research Council, 1996).  Research also suggests that the teaching of science inquiry be a priority in the classroom and that teachers teach students both to conduct research in inquiry and to view science itself as a form of inquiry (Beerer & Bodzin, 2003).  Teaching by inquiry emphasizes the process of science rather than simply lecturing and explaining facts. The inquiry process includes: observing, measuring, predicting, inferring, using numbers, defining operationally, formulating hypotheses, interpreting data, controlling variables, experimenting and communicating (Padilla, 1990). Teaching is accomplished by guiding students through carefully sequenced experiments and exercises designed to help them develop a functional understanding of the concepts. Inquiry tries to steer away from the traditional approach to learning and teaching and instead, students are given a problem, ask questions, carry out research, and use prior knowledge to solve that problem (Colburn, 2000).  Inquiry allows students to move from being the student to ‘the scientist’.Serious concerns about our student’s achievement and poor performance in science compared to other nations has been well documented for several years (Beaton, et al., 1996).  Specific areas of concern are the gaps in students’ interest and ability in science due to socioeconomic factors, race, ethnicity and/or gender (National Assessment of Education Progress, 2005).  Despite numerous efforts to change this picture, the deficiencies persist.  Science education desperately needs to implement techniques and pedagogy that will reverse these trends.Mirroring this picture of poor student achievement in science are workforce statistics in the science and engineering fields that indicate underrepresentation of women and minorities.  Women comprised almost one-half of the workforce in 1999, but were only 24% of the science and engineering workforce.  Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians as a group constituted 24% of the U.S. population but only 7% of the total science and engineering workforce (National Science Foundation 2002).According to the National Assessment Educational Progress in 2005, 59% of eighth grade students and 62% of fourth grade students in Massachusetts did not score in the proficient range (NAEP, 2005).  While the numbers are above the national averages, there is still work to be done.  With inquiry based learning, students are left to discover what the results of the experiment are for themselves.  The inquiry process allows students to satisfy their curiosities by exploring their natural world and build their own knowledge base in the process of investigating their own questions.?Purpose the StudyThe main purpose of this study is to compare an inquiry based instructional method with the traditional teaching approach on the achievement of students at the middle school level.  The study will examine the impact on student achievements in the sciences, as well as the impact on student attitude toward the subject matter.  It is hypothesized that implementing inquiry based science curricula may result in higher average student achievement and an improvement in science attitude compared with those using traditional non inquiry based science curricula.True inquiry tends to be left out of most science curriculum because many teachers are uncomfortable with moving away from older “tried and true” teaching methods (Hartzell, 2003), especially in a standards-based education system. Instilling the confidence in teachers that students understand better through inquiry-based learning will create the need for inquiry on a day to day basis in science classrooms.Statement of the ProblemMemorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today’s world. Facts change, and information is readily available.  Instead what’s needed is a deep understanding of thesubject matter.  In many traditional science classrooms, students exhibit poor attitudes toward science, low achievement in science, lack the awareness of the importance of science and demonstrate the inability to solve problems using scientific processes (Beerer & Bodzin, 2003).  Generally students are told what the outcome of an experiment will be, or is expected to be, and they are simply expected to “confirm” it. Students benefit from manipulating materials in their hands, but to fully understand the underlying concepts, students must design open-ended experiments, identify variables, support their findings with research and then analyze their data, draw conclusions and make connections with what they already know (Erdal and Ongel, 2003). Giving students control in this manner, before giving a formal lecture, is inquiry at its best.?The “hands-on” discovery approach improves students’ attitude toward science and overall academic achievement (Shymansky et al. 1983, 1990). Although this approach is clearly better at “sparking” students’ interest in science, it is still underutilized compared to the traditional textbook and lecture format.  For even though the “educational community has embraced the principle that we must provide high quality learning experiences for all students, regardless of their learning styles,” this transition may be lagging in science education, and systematic change will be harder to achieve (Buckley, 1999).Clearly, something must be done to help promote these changes.?This paper will examine the use of using inquiry based learning in the middle school science classroom.  It will attempt to answer the questions:  1. How is inquiry used in the secondary science classroom?2. How does inquiry based science learning impact student achievement in the sciences?3. How does inquiry based science learning affect student’s attitudes towards science?SignificanceThe results of this study will be significant to anyone that is trying to help students develop into scientifically literate citizens and improve their level of questioning and problem solving.  Research suggests that inquiry based curriculum developsindependent and critical thinking skills, positive attitudes toward science and an increased achievement in science content (Hall & McCudy, 1990).  Inquiry based science gives students a better understanding of what true science is, how to think for themselves and develop useful problem solving skills. These skills are important for future scientists to develop, but it is also important that all students possess these skills. The skills used in science are used more and more in everyday life. Inquiry-based science teaching allows students to connect classroom activities with personal experiences where traditional science learning does not make those same connections. This facilitates the means of acquiring new knowledge in not only the 

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