WWW Site for John Lawrence Bencze, Associate Professor, Science Education, OISE/University of Toronto

Curriculum Vitae

Bencze, J.L. (2009a). 'Polite directiveness' in science inquiry: A contradiction in terms? Cultural Studies in Science Education, 4(4), 855-864.

‘‘Inquiry’’ is a nearly ubiquitous part of recommendations for effective practice in school science worldwide. Teachers often experience difficulties, however, in engaging students in inquiry activities in which they are asked to explore physical phenomena (and energy) and, from their inquiries, derive appropriate conclusions about nature. It has long been recommended that teachers guide students through such inquiry activities. In Alandeom W. Oliveira’s paper, teachers are encouraged to conduct this guidance in polite ways; that is, to use polite discourse practices. A key strategy for accomplishing this was to engage teachers in a summer institute, in which they were asked to socially construct
conceptions of discourse practices that might effectively engage students in science inquiry activities. For the most part, the summer institute appeared to be quite effective, particularly for a teacher highlighted in the paper who experienced great improvements in student engagement in association with her increased use of polite discourse practices. There were a number of positive aspects of this paper, not the least of which seemed to be the effectiveness of the summer institute. However, the paper raised a number of concerns— largely around the use of what I call guided ‘‘quasi-inductive’’ science inquiry activities. In this paper, I explore these issues in terms of four themes, namely: depth of learning, intellectual independence, representing science, and professional conscription. My major contentions include that: politely guided quasi-inductive inquiry activities are highly problematic; school science inquiry activities aimed at supporting scientists’ conclusions should be more deductive; and, inquiry activities should be set within the context of personal, social and environmental issues stemming from influences of societal interest groups on professional science and technology.

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