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Keywords:

  • inquiry;
  • equity;
  • achievement;
  • curriculum

Abstract

We conducted a laboratory-based randomized control study to examine the effectiveness of inquiry-based instruction. We also disaggregated the data by student demographic variables to examine if inquiry can provide equitable opportunities to learn. Fifty-eight students aged 14–16 years old were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups of students were taught toward the same learning goals by the same teacher, with one group being taught from inquiry-based materials organized around the BSCS 5E Instructional Model, and the other from materials organized around commonplace teaching strategies as defined by national teacher survey data. Students in the inquiry-based group reached significantly higher levels of achievement than students experiencing commonplace instruction. This effect was consistent across a range of learning goals (knowledge, reasoning, and argumentation) and time frames (immediately following the instruction and 4 weeks later). The commonplace science instruction resulted in a detectable achievement gap by race, whereas the inquiry-based materials instruction did not. We discuss the implications of these findings for the body of evidence on the effectiveness of teaching science as inquiry; the role of instructional models and curriculum materials in science teaching; addressing achievement gaps; and the competing demands of reform and accountability. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 47:276–301, 2010