The purpose of this study is to investigate how sixth graders develop inquiry skills to construct explanations in an inquiry-based learning environment. We designed a series of inquiry-based learning activities and identified four inquiry skills that are relevant to students' construction of explanation. These skills include skills to identify causal relationships, to describe the reasoning process, to use data as evidence, and to evaluate explanations. Multiple sources of data (e.g., video recordings of learning activities, interviews, students' artifacts, and pre/post tests) were collected from two science classes with 58 sixth graders. The statistical results show that overall the students' inquiry skills were significantly improved after they participated in the series of the learning activities. Yet the level of competency in these skills varied. While students made significant progress in identifying causal relationships, describing the reasoning process, and using data as evidence, they showed slight improvement in evaluating explanations. Additionally, the analyses suggest that phases of inquiry provide different kinds of learning opportunities and interact with students' development of inquiry skills.
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