The state of Iowa launched Every Learner Inquires, a K–12 professional development initiative to promote inquiry-based science instruction. The goals of the initiative were to improve science learning for all students, build teacher leadership and content expertise in science, provide teachers with the content and skills necessary to implement inquiry-based instruction, and establish a structure for sustained implementation. Teachers and administrators at participating schools received professional development at a four-day summer institute and five daylong workshops during the academic year; and school-based teams set aside monthly planning time to collaboratively develop inquiry-based lessons.
The AIR team designed an evaluation to provide timely feedback regarding reactions to professional development, teacher learning, level and fidelity of implementation, and factors that facilitate and inhibit implementation. Data the AIR team collected for this study included surveys that teachers completed rating their understanding, self-efficacy, and use of inquiry-based instruction, level of organizational support, and impact on student engagement; logs describing teachers’ daily instructional practices and classroom activities; interviews with school staff; observations of classroom instruction; and student surveys to gain information about students’ perception of typical classroom activities and their attitudes toward science in general.
AIR’s study results suggested that teachers were implementing some but not all aspects of inquiry-based instruction. Teachers generally reported insufficient time to collaborate with other teachers on lesson planning. As a result of these findings, project leaders refocused the daylong workshops to address the areas of challenge and provide guidance on establishing effective professional learning communities.