Increasing access to inquiry learning in biology by supporting students and teachers


Pädagogische Hochschule Salzburg
Projektleitung gesamt
THALHAMER, Theresa; Mag. Dr.
Projektleitung intern
THALHAMER, Theresa; Mag. Dr.
Interne Projektmitarbeiter/innen
Externe Projektmitarbeiter/innen
2021 – 2024
Access to education that develops scientific literacy is fundamentally important to our society. The solution to the major challenges our society faces and will face in the near future are majorly dependent on scientific research and innovative development. Scientifically literate citizens will be better able to make informed decisions concerning the implementation of new research and development (Hazelkorn et al., 2015). It is therefore everybody’s right to receive high quality science education that prepares them for these important and difficult decisions. However, recent data shows that in the current education systems by far not all students develop adequate scientific literacy (OECD, 2018). Studies have shown that students with lower socioeconomic status and especially students with disabilities still underperform in measures of scientific literacy (2015 Science Assessment, n.d.; Martin et al., 2016).
It should therefore be the focus of research and education initiatives to increase the access to science education that helps all students, irrespective of their background or ability, develop the necessary skills and knowledge to become scientifically literate.
It has been consistently shown over the last decades that inquiry teaching is well-suited to develop not only scientific knowledge but also epistemic and procedural knowledge, all of which are necessary components of scientific literacy. Inquiry teaching has been shown to be superior to other approaches, such as traditional text-based methods (Furtak et al., 2012). Further studies have shown that especially guided inquiry, which provides varying levels of teacher support during the process, can be even more beneficial to students’ learning (Lazonder & Harmsen, 2016). Especially students with disabilities need the support provided by this approach and profit from its activity-oriented nature (Lynch et al., 2007).
General accessibility of science teaching is another aspect that needs to be addressed when discussing scientific literacy. In order to provide equal opportunities for all students and to eliminate the existing gap between different student populations, inclusive teaching approaches are needed. One such approach is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (UDL: The UDL Guidelines, n.d.). UDL is a framework for curriculum and lesson planning with a diverse population of students in mind. The proactive consideration of a heterogenous population of learners necessitates the use of more flexible approaches to instruction. UDL therefore aims to increase the access to learning for all students by providing a variety of options for students’ engagement, representation of content as well as possibilities for action and expression (Hall et al., 2012).
The major goal of this research project is to develop, implement and evaluate teaching units for biology that integrate a guided inquiry approach with an inclusive planning tool (UDL) and provide teachers with unit plans as well as needed materials for all the activities. Combined with professional teacher development this approach aims to reduce the barriers for implementation of inquiry teaching as well as increase the accessibility of inquiry learning for all students, especially students with disabilities.
The effectiveness of the teaching units will be evaluated by using a quasi-experimental setup with a crossover design. Data will be collected using surveys, standardized tests as well as researcher-created content assessments.
Beschreibung (engl.)