Inquiry Lesson Plan Guidelines

PHY 311 -- Teaching High School Physics
PHY 312 -- Teaching Physics from the Historical Perspective (Inquiry!)

Physics Teacher Education Program
Illinois State University

Mr. Ken Wester, Coordinator Physics Teacher Education Program
Dr. Carl J. Wenning, Physics Teaching Specialist

Lesson plans created for PHY 311 (one) and PHY 312 (two) must be inquiry oriented. That is, students should be engaged in active learning activities in which they construct knowledge on the basis of experience. Avoid expository lecture-based approaches.

Your lesson plan(s) might include discovery learning and interactive demonstrations, but should not be a laboratory activity per se. See Levels of inquiry: Hierarchies of pedagogical practices and inquiry processes for a clear distinction between a lesson and a laboratory. See A framework for teaching nature of science for suggestions about how to incorporate nature of science activities in your lesson.

This approach to lesson planning assumes that before developing the plan the teacher candidate will have:

N.B. Review the Lesson Plan Scoring Rubric for this assignment before continuing. Also note that this rubric is tied closely to an 8-component Inquiry Lesson Scoring Rubric. The first rubric is used to assess how an inquiry lesson will be taught; the second rubric is used to assess how well the lesson was actually taught.

Lesson Plan Requirements

A. Guiding Question(s): The goal of your lesson should be inquiry oriented. Students’ attention should be focused on answering one or two key questions based on empirical evidence. Remember that teacher simply asking lots of questions does not an inquiry lesson make.

B. Student Performance Objective(s): What, more specifically, are the students expected to know and be able to do at the end of the lesson? Include content knowledge, intellectual skills, and dispositions as appropriate. Your objectives should have readily observable behaviors or performance tasks. Students must be made aware of day-to-day objectives.

C. Science Content and Standards: List here the order of science content as it will be taught as well as the corresponding Illinois Learning Standard(s). Please cite similar to the following: 13A1c for ILS objectives and "Working in Groups" for ILS Applications of Learning.

D. Alternative Conceptions: List here any alternative conceptions (preconceptions that students might bring to this subject matter and misconceptions that they might develop) as a result of studying the content of this lesson. Be certain to cite your reference(s).

E. Instructional Approach(es): Indicate which active learning strategies you will employ in this inquiry lesson such as discovery learning, interactive demonstration, inquiry lesson, inquiry lab, hypothetical inquiry, problem/project based learning, case study, discussion, etc. Good inquiry-oriented lessons also will include activities from each of the three following categories: individualized, small group, and whole group.

F. Introduction: You will want to link the current lesson with any previous lesson that is somehow related. (Recall that you are required to produce a series of two (2) lesson plans that flow one into the next.) The anticipatory set is included to ensure that the students are ready for this lesson as the next lesson in a series of lessons. These introductory activities focus student attention, provide for review or a very brief practice on previous objectives, and develop readiness for the current lesson. This is a good time to elicit students’ alternative conceptions.

G. Instructional Activities and Accommodations: List instructional activities to help all students (including those with disabilities) accomplish the stated objectives. Include estimated times for each activity and how you will address special needs. Students should be actively engaged in the construction of knowledge on the basis of empirical evidence. Below are suggestions of intellectual process skills that you might attempt to develop using discovery learning, interactive demonstrations, and inquiry lesson approach. For details, see Levels of inquiry: Using inquiry spectrum learning sequences to teach science. Be certain to see the Inquiry Lesson Scoring Rubric for pertinent teacher and student behaviors as they relate to inquiry-oriented lessons.

Discovery Learning Interactive Demonstrations Inquiry Lesson

Rudimentary skills:

  • observing
  • formulating concepts
  • estimating
  • drawing conclusions
  • communicating results
  • classifying results

Basic skills:

  • predicting
  • explaining
  • estimating
  • acquiring and processing data
  • formulating and revising scientific explanations
  • using logic and evidence
  • recognizing and analyzing alterative explanations and models

Intermediate skills:

  • measuring
  • collecting and recording data
  • constructing a table of data
  • designing and conducting scientific investigations
  • using technology and math during investigations
  • describing relationships

H. Checking for Understanding: How will you as teacher determine if the student performance objective(s) for the day's lesson has been achieved? How will you assess the objectives in an informal though meaningful manner?

I. Extensions/Homework: Explain how you will teach explicitly about the nature of science, its unifying concepts, the philosophy of science, issues of science and technology and/or the processes of science during your lesson. What projects or homework activities will you assign to your students to help them internalize and better understand the intended learning of this lesson?

J. Materials and Safety: What materials will you need to teach your lesson? Do any of your materials represent a safety hazard? If so, what precautions will you take to protect your students?

K. Backup Plan: No lesson plan should be written without considering the possibility that students will complete their tasks faster than expected. Every lesson plan should, therefore, include meaningful back up activities. The backup plan should not consist of having students work on an assignment intended for homework.


Additional Themes for PHY 312: One of your two inquiry lessons in PHY 312 must include some consideration for the nature of science OR unifying concepts and processes of science and the other lesson must include some consideration for the technological applications of science (see Hands-on Physics Activities with Real-Life Applications by Cunningham and Herr).