Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Brain and Inquiry: Praxis III

Brie Stark's picture
Brain and Inquiry: Praxis III Independent Study

Researcher: Brielle Stark, Bryn Mawr College '12

Research Questions:

  • Are open-ended activities engaging to students?
  • Do open-ended activities transfer knowledge to students?
  • Is there a difference between teacher and student perceptions of open-ended activities?


  • To develop open ended questions addressing the following two categories (engagement and transfer) that can be posed to 5th/6th grade level children in order to obtain verbal/qualitative answers that can be analyzed.
  • To develop the same open ended questions geared toward teachers about how the teachers thought their students were engaged in the lesson and whether or not they thought the information was transferred.
  • To observe the participants in an inquiry environment.

Operational Definitions:

  • Students remarking in the follow-up interview that they were engaged in the lesson (subject to different wordings); self-assessment of their emotions related to the lesson
  • The researcher observing that the student participated in the activity (ie. asked questions of the teacher or other students and/or physically interacted with the activity)
  • The teacher's interpretation of the student's engagement.


  • Students being able to describe the lesson two or three weeks after having participated in the lesson
  • Students being able to describe why they were/were not engaged in the lesson
  • Students being able to describe their favorite part of the lesson
  • The teacher’s assessment of whether or not, two or three weeks after lesson:
    • the student referenced the topic in class
    • did well on an examination about the topic
    • learned of referencing the topic that took place at home

Methodology of Questioning:

  • Students: update -- Rather than asking students questions immediately after an activity they just completed, the questions will address previously completed activities.
    • Students will be interviewed and may be audio-taped individually.  They will not be questioned in groups.
    • The questioning isn't a formal process; I will sit down and have a conversation with the student.  It should take no more than 15 minutes.  There are no 'correct' answers.
    • Because the approval from the IRB committee came later than expected, the 'engagement' questions will probably not be asked of students (this is subject to change).  Instead, I will use my observations to derive a sense of engagement.
  • Teachers: will have a discussion after each class about questions revolving around what I have observed (ex. engagement).  They will be asked the transfer 2 questions after a time delay, probably 2 weeks.
    • Teachers will be interviewed and audio-taped individually, not in the presence of the students.
    • As stated above under the student section, I will probably use the discussion segment occurring after each class to supplement the engagement factor.

Interview Questions (some questions to be omitted; none to be added)

Daily Procedure:

  1. Observe the class setting for 50min (wednesdays) per week
  2. Ask transfer questions of students.
  3. Interview teacher after children have gone to an elective.
  4. Detail findings in blog.

 Observations & Interpretations

  • Note: students are referred to as "subjects" and no names will ever be mentioned.

Week of September 14, 2009 -- Project: Oobleck

Week of September 21, 2009 -- Project: Bubbleology 1

Week of September 28, 2009 -- Project: Gardening

Week of October 5, 2009 -- Project: Bubbleology 2

Week of October 19, 2009 -- Project: Brain and Behavior

Week of October 26, 2009 -- Project: Writing Workshop

Week of November 2, 2009 -- Project: Brain and Behavior II (senses)

Week of November 30, 2009 -- Project: Mysteries of Chemistry

Final Paper:

Discovering Inquiry in Education


Lawrence Flick and Valerie Dickinson, "Teacher Intentions, Teacher Practice and Student Perceptions of Inquiry-Oriented Teaching."  March, 1997.

Ronald Beghetto, "Correlates of Intellectual Risk Taking in Elementary School Science."  May 9, 2007.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, volume 46, no. 2, pp. 210-223 (2009).

Watson, B, & Kopnicek, R. (1990). Teaching for conceptual change: confronting children's experience. Phi Delta Kappan, 680-684.

Wolff, D. P. (1987). The art of questioning. Academic Connections, 1-7.



Work in progress.


Disclaimer: I have no previous affiliation with the workings of the school, and my writings reflect my own observation of events that occur and are not suggesting concrete fact.  If you have questions, please email me at