Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Paper presented at the 46th Annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization, West Dover, VT. April, 2014.


Significant challenges face the United States regarding global competition as 21st century workforce skills lag behind corporate demands in STEM-based careers (Bucher, 2011; Campbell & Pedersen, 2007; Kramer, 2010; Savitz & Elias, 2011; Scott, 2007). Strategic interventions for inquiry-based, 21st century skills development are of grave necessity for K-12 education to encourage post-secondary STEM opportunities (Abaidoo, 2012; Mouhammed, 2009; Porter & Rivkin, 2012; Rombel, 2012).

This study investigated inquiry techniques in K-12 urban classrooms where greatest equity gaps reside and explored teacher self-efficacy with respect to promoting 21st century skills. Changes needed to promote sustainable, inquiry-based, analytic habits of mind for success in STEM disciplines with respect to student populations of greatest need is a priority. Comprehensive study details and findings are available in the unpublished dissertation, Inquiry-based Instruction: Cultivating Analytical Habits of Mind with 21st Century Skills (Laliberte, 2014). Research questions guiding the qualitative portion of this study included:

1. How do teachers describe their use of inquiry in the classroom?

2. How did teachers learn to implement inquiry practice in the classroom?

This paper focuses on the qualitative components of a mixed methods, sequential explanatory, study that employed a sample of certified public teachers from urban classrooms in a Northeastern state where educational achievement gaps are greatest. Qualitative data collection was comprised of sequential focus groups that explored teacher perceptions of self-efficacy regarding inquiry (Krueger & Casey, 2009) following quantitative assessments of frequency and inquiry levels related to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (Webb, 1997; Webb, 2009) and teacher self-efficacy based on Bandura’s research (2006, 2013).

Qualitative findings revealed six emergent themes including: Student Skills and Extended Thinking, Qualities and Characteristics of Teachers, What Does this Vision Look Like?, Boundaries and Challenges of Change, Elementary Versus Secondary Preparation, Myth or Reality?, and Benefits of Collaboration in Real Time. Participating educators described accountability to promote 21st century inquiry skills in their classrooms, recognized shortcomings related to teacher preparation programs, indicated needs for strategic professional development to remain proficient with evolving skills required in the competitive workplace, and noted stressors of new educator evaluation systems that prohibit expansion of classroom practices. Findings may assist varied audiences focused on 21st century global readiness. Those tasked with professional development and teacher preparation initiatives must meet teachers’ needs to support inquiry practices in K-12 classrooms.



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