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Science inquiry pedagogy in upper primary and lower secondary lessons

Sturrock, Keryn (2021) Science inquiry pedagogy in upper primary and lower secondary lessons. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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For over 50 years science inquiry has been positively associated with student achievement. Recently, the role of science inquiry as a means of effective science teaching has come under increased scrutiny after analyses of international large-scale assessments found an overall negative association between science inquiry and student achievement. Unclear in the research literature is the methods teachers use when implementing science inquiry in the standard classroom, as previous research was based on classroom interventions and student reports. To better understand the association between science inquiry and student achievement it is necessary to first explore teachers’ day-to-day science inquiry instruction using classroom observations.

The current research describes upper primary and lower secondary teachers’ science inquiry implementation in 56 science lessons and the reasons teachers chose to implement certain pedagogies. The qualitative design combined teacher surveys, structured classroom observations, and interviews to describe teachers’ science inquiry pedagogies using the guidance and cognitive dimensions of science inquiry.

Primary teachers implemented predominantly guided inquiry for approximately 50% of the total observed lesson time, while secondary teachers used mainly structured inquiry for roughly 18% of lesson time. Although primary and secondary teachers implemented all the essential features of science inquiry, the features were spread across multiple lessons. Therefore students were not experiencing science inquiry in its entirety and were not provided the opportunity to understand how the essential features work together during an investigation. Further, the epistemic domain of science inquiry was practically absent from teachers’ instruction, limiting students exposure to the nature of scientific knowledge.

The current research provides a contemporary and multifaceted account of science teaching practice in standard science lessons that, when synthesised with pedagogical theory, facilitated a conceptual model of science teaching practice. The findings and the model can be used by educational researchers and policy-makers to make informed decisions when seeking to improve science education, especially with respect to scientifically reflexive praxis and curriculum that supports empirical knowledge generation through science inquiry instruction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Woods-McConney, Amanda, Maor, Dorit and Pino-Pasternak, Deborah
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