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Personal inquiry: orchestrating science investigations within and beyond the classroom

Sharples, Mike; Scanlon, Eileen; Ainsworth, Shaaron E.; Anastopoulou, Stamatina; Collins, Trevor; Crook, Charles; Jones, Ann; Kerawalla, Lucinda; Littleton, Karen; Mulholland, Paul; O’Malley, Claire


Mike Sharples

Eileen Scanlon

Stamatina Anastopoulou

Trevor Collins

Charles Crook

Ann Jones

Lucinda Kerawalla

Karen Littleton

Paul Mulholland

Claire O’Malley


A central challenge for science educators is to enable young people to act as scientists by gathering and assessing evidence, conducting experiments, and engaging in informed debate. We report the design of the nQuire toolkit, a system to support scripted personal inquiry learning, and a study of its use with school students ages 11–14. This differs from previous work on inquiry learning by its emphasis on learners investigating topics of personal significance supported by a computer-based toolkit to guide school pupils through an entire inquiry process that connects structured learning in the classroom with discovery and data collection at home or outdoors. Findings from the studies indicate that the toolkit was successfully adopted by teachers and pupils in contexts that included teacher-directed lessons, an after-school club, field trips, and learner-managed homework. It effectively supported the transition between individual, group, and whole-class activities and supported learning across formal and informal settings. We discuss issues raised by the intervention studies, including how the combination of technology and pedagogy provided support for the teacher despite difficulties in managing the technology and integrating field data into a classroom lesson. We also discuss the difficulty of altering young people’s attitudes to science.


Sharples, M., Scanlon, E., Ainsworth, S. E., Anastopoulou, S., Collins, T., Crook, C., …O’Malley, C. (2015). Personal inquiry: orchestrating science investigations within and beyond the classroom. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 24(2), 308-341. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.944642

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 30, 2014
Online Publication Date Dec 9, 2014
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Mar 20, 2015
Journal Journal of the Learning Sciences
Print ISSN 1050-8406
Electronic ISSN 1050-8406
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 308-341
Keywords Inquiry, Science, Mobile Learning
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