Prior research has shown the effectiveness of inquiry education in increasing content knowledge and motivation. Improving learners’ epistemologies is an additional component that should be examined when considering inquiry effectiveness. The basis for students’ participation in inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is to emulate the scientific process in classroom learning – and, by extension, to alter their scientific epistemologies. In this chapter, we discuss the challenges associated with the construction and assessment of IBSE. First, despite it being a common underlying theoretical framework of inquiry units, assessments of learning outcomes rarely reflect a consideration of students’ changing epistemologies. Second, we examine whether inquiry practices in the classroom are constructed to alter students’ epistemologies. We integrate preliminary research findings from a week-long, researcher-taught ecology inquiry unit with urban adolescents, reporting on posttest assessments of students’ thoughts on sources of knowledge, their ecology content knowledge, and their understanding of the nature of science. While we expected this unit to foster learner epistemology, our results did not confirm our expectations. In fact, students who participated in the inquiry unit were outperformed by a comparison group matched on age and ethnicity in several unexpected areas relevant to learner epistemology. This chapter explores explanations of unexpected findings and recommendations for the future assessment and practice of inquiry couched in challenges associated with current challenges to instructing and assessing learner epistemology.
Renken, M., Carrion, C. and Litkowski, E. (2014), "Targeting Students’ Epistemologies: Instructional and Assessment Challenges to Inquiry-Based Science Education", Inquiry-based Learning for Faculty and Institutional Development: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 147-174. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2055-364120140000001009
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