Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Technical Report No. 001, The Communication in Science Inquiry Project (CISIP), Arizona State University


Copyright© 2008 Arizona Board of Regents


One of the greatest challenges facing scholars and funding agencies interested in reform is determining the impact of classroom practice on student achievement. The degree to which this effect can be determined is contingent upon instruments that measure teachers’ ability to enact specific instructional strategies. Frequently, a general instrument will not do because it was not designed to measure the unique focus of a professional development program or a set of variables of interest to researchers.

Consequently, specific instruments should be developed to allow researchers to measure fidelity of classroom implementation. Fidelity of implementation is always the first step in determining effectiveness. For without fidelity of implementation, it is impossible to determine whether what the teacher does has an impact on student achievement. This manual reports on the development of just such an instrument, called the Discourse in Inquiry Science Classrooms (DiISC). The instrument was developed to measure teachers’ use of strategies in their classrooms to foster a science classroom discourse community (SCDC) as a way of furthering achievement in science. The DiISC instructional strategies that support the creation of a SCDC address oral and written discourse, and academic language development embedded in inquiry and they also reflect learning principles. We believe that the creation of the DiISC is especially timely for two reasons. First, science educators are beginning to focus on communication in science as a learning tool to increase students’ conceptual understanding and achievement in science. Second, we need an instrument to measure teachers’ ability to support the academic language development in science of the increasing number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in our schools.

The DiISC is an instrument for observing teachers, not students. It describes what teachers do and focuses on five sets of instructional strategies that form the scales of the DiISC. These scales are Inquiry, Oral Discourse, Writing, Academic Language Development and Learning Principles. Consequently, the stems of many of the items start with the phrase, "The teacher…", as in “The teacher creates an environment that supports inquiry”.