Inquiry Instruction vs. Direct Instruction

An experimental efficacy study of science achievement and attitude development amongst 8th grade urban students using an inquiry, integrated science-mathematics-engineering model of instruction

This research studies the efficacy of science inquiry instruction against direct instruction at the middle school grades. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (2004-2009; NSF/IERI #0437655) Inquiry teaching of science reflects the investigative attitudes and empirical techniques scientists use to construct new knowledge. In recent years, under the National Research Council, National Science Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science leadership, the United States has developed a national commitment to the teaching of science as inquiry across the K-12 grades. Almost all state frameworks for K-12 science education have an inquiry focus. The science education research community has overwhelmingly adopted an inquiry pedagogy perspective for science education. “Inquiry” is omni-present in the language of the science education community, and for many in the science community, inquiry teaching has become the sine qua non for all science teaching. Since the NSF-funded science curriculum projects of the 1960s, many teachers, researchers, curriculum writers, policymakers, and others have been interested in the effectiveness of inquiry-based curricula and inquiry instruction with respect to science concept achievement. Research and evaluation projects have been carried out and proponents of inquiry teaching claim that there is general support for the effectiveness of inquiry instruction. Critics, however, are quick to point out that very little of this research has been unconfounded and thus the research support for inquiry instruction is tenuous at best. Given the widespread adoption of inquiry methods for science teaching, the lack of unconfounded experimental research data in support of inquiry instruction effectiveness is cause for alarm. Our research addresses this gap.

Principle Investigator:
Wiliam W. Cobern
Mallinson Institute for Science Education


3225 Wood Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 5444 USA
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September 5, 2012