Windows on the Inquiry Classroom

Christopher Bauer, University of New Hampshire-Main Campus

Program Description

The project is a comprehensive documentation of an inquiry-based course, a college-level interdisciplinary exploration of the nature of heat, temperature, and energy (Fire and Ice). The door to this classroom is open for observations at any time for teachers, teacher educators, professional developers, researchers, and science learners. The entire course is available at the University of New Hampshire Scholars Repository: All 27 class sessions are captured in 10-minute video segments from four angles, including instructor and student teams. All course documents are also available: daily agenda, student team instructions and work products, and hands-on activity procedures. There are behind-the-curtain stories as well: instructor previews and debriefing for each class, graduate interns reviewing every class, student focus groups, and videos about course design process. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant DUE-1245730. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Licensed:

Program Purpose

Written descriptions of inquiry education do not do justice to the complexities and nuance of being an instructor or student in an inquiry learning environment. The video product will make the inquiry classroom real for many STEM instructors: Real in the sense that they can visit the classroom, listen to how an experienced instructor implements his pedagogical content knowledge, and peer over the shoulder of novice instructors as they build their confidence and experience. A significant impediment to the adoption of inquiry instruction is that instructors can't visit each other's classrooms with enough frequency or engage in detailed discussions with enough depth to construct a deep understanding of what's going on. Where can someone go right at this moment to experience an authentic classroom? Options have been limited, until now.

If you can't find or get to a course based on inquiry instruction, then let's make the course come to you. The Fire and Ice Collection ( is a real-time, unabridged video record of an authentic classroom with instructor and students facing real learning challenges. See what they do, and listen to what they are thinking.

Program Goals

The challenge was to capture a complete video record of a semester-long course; conduct video interviews with the instructor, interns, and students to provide insight into thinking and perceptions; and to organize the documentation so that it would be easily discoverable by visitors, who could drop into the course at any point or search for particular aspects, such as science topics, pedagogic approaches, student work products, and more.

Program Activities

People who simply wish to visit the Fire and Ice Collection site can do so, and stream or download whatever they wish to use from the record, without having to worry about technical details. Download speeds are currently about one to two minutes for ten-minute video segments. If someone wishes to replicate this documentary approach for another course, one needs a good quality consumer video camera, lavalier microphones and multichannel recording for good audio quality (there are various options), video editing software, and large capacity for storage and moving video files.

Necessary Resources

It does not require professional assistance to accomplish video documentation, as long as you have time and patience. Professional help is advantageous.

Notes and Tips

Audio quality is more difficult to assure than is video quality. Student discussions about content are most interesting and were most difficult to capture well.

Evidence of Success

Student outcome results are in part summarized in a publication: C. F. Bauer, J. Y. K. Chan, "Non-science majors learn about heat, temperature, and thermodynamics using the particulate nature of matter and guided-inquiry instruction", American Journal of Physics. 87, 550-557 (2019). Descriptive information is expected to appear in the Journal of College Science Teaching.

Program Costs and ROI

Cost of this initiative in its first year (including start-up costs):
Average yearly costs to maintain this initiative:
Average number of individuals served per year by this initiative:
Average annual rate of success for individuals meeting this initiative's goals:

Future Work

Research continues on student learning in the Fire and Ice course.

References and Accessory Materials