Background information

TEMI is a science education project addressed to secondary school teachers, funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), category Capacities, Science in Society, Coordination Action.

Call identifier: FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2012-1

Topic SiS.2012.2.2.1-1: Supporting actions on Innovation in the classroom: teacher training on inquiry based teaching methods on a large scale in Europe.

Goal and Vision

TEMI is a teacher training project with the aim to help transform science and mathematics teaching practice across Europe by giving teachers new skills to engage with their students, exciting new resources and the extended support needed to effectively introduce inquiry based learning into their classrooms.

We do this by working with teacher training institutions and teacher networks across Europe where we wish to implement innovative training programmes called ‘inquiry labs’. These are based around the core scientific concepts and emotionally engaging activity of solving mysteries, i.e. exploring the unknown. The inquiry labs use scientists and communication professionals (e.g. actors, motivational speakers, etc.) to mentor teachers through the transition to use inquiry to teach science.

TEMI adopts a clear definition of inquiry in terms of a cognitive skillset, and sets out a stepwise progression to push students towards becoming confident enquirers. The project pays equal attention to the affective side of learning. We will help teachers foster a deep motivation to learn, by bringing to the fore the sense of mystery, exploration and discovery that is at the core of all scientific practice.

Inquiry Based Science Education

By definition, inquiry is the intentional process of diagnosing problems, critiquing experiments, and distinguishing alternatives, planning investigations, researching conjectures, searching for information, constructing models, debating with peers, and forming coherent arguments. [...] Inquiry-Based Science Education is a problem-based approach but goes beyond it with the importance given to the experimental approach. (”Science Education NOW: A renewed Pedagogy for the Future of Europe”, European Commission, 2007)

Inquiry holds out huge promise for science education, to arrest the decline in student attitudes towards science and mathematics, and foster better scientific thinking. Yet, it demands a major shift in existing classroom culture.

For TEMI to be effective in achieving change, we decided to adopt a perspective that is at the same time consistent with contemporary research, and pragmatic for real school contexts. We believe that the most productive definition of inquiry is that it is teaching which aims squarely at a particular set of student skills. These skills have been clearly described by the US National Research Council (2000), and are consistent with the EU’s report (Science Education: NOW) which argues that inquiry allows student to develop ‘crucial intellectual skills’. The 5 areas of the inquiry skillset are:

  1. Learners engaged by scientifically orientated questions
  2. Learners give priority to evidence in responding to questions
  3. Learners formulate explanations from evidence
  4. Learners connect explanations to scientific knowledge
  5. Learners communicate and justify explanations to others

This skillset view can be elaborated to accommodate the student-centred elements of other views. For inquiry teaching is not as an all-or-nothing affair, but we will help teachers learn to judge the optimal inquiry level to match their local circumstance, i.e. their class’ current competencies.

What is a mystery?

In science education, a mystery is a phenomenon or event that provokes the perception of suspense and wonder in the learner to initiate an emotionally-laden “want to know”-feeling which leads to a raise in curiosity and which initiates the posing of questions to be answered by inquiry and problem-solving activities. A mystery is a good mystery for a classroom inquiry if:
  • it can be investigated and explained scientifically and is within the competency of the students involved
  • provides affective engagement for the students
  • generates curiosity and leads to student questions
  • ‘problemmatises’ or makes knowledge and inquiry skills part of the answer to the mystery
  • covers a sufficient part of the nationally assessed curriculum to justify time spent
  • is simple enough to be a ‘discrepant event’, and generate cognitive conflict
  • the time between mystery and answer is limited (1-2 lessons)
  • is introduced by a pedagogy that relies on the mystery itself
A mystery is a bad mystery for a classroom inquiry if:
  • provides engagement for the teacher only, but the students are not excited
  • generates little curiosity and the teacher has to do all the work
  • is answered by science concepts that are too difficult for students to grasp
  • is peripheral to the subject content of the curriculum
  • is too complex, and students explain it away as ‘magic’ (a trick that I don’t need to explain)


The TEMI project gathers 13 partners from 11 countries across Europe.


Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Apps and Website Development


Impact Evaluation

TRACES, France

Promotion, Dissemination and Networking

STERRENLAB, The Netherlands

Teacher Training Centres

Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

Bremen University, Germany

University of Limerick, Ireland

Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Hogskolen I Vestfold, Norway

University of Vienna, Austria

Leiden University, The Netherlands

Charles University, Czech Republic

Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel