Inquiry-based learning: Perceptions, use, and barriers for 6-12 science teachers

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There are many reasons students fail to achieve in STEM related fields post high school. For example, students may spend too much time receiving teacher centered lessons that focus primarily on vocabulary building and concept recognition. These lessons may not necessarily promote understanding or encourage students to learn other skills than memorization and vocabulary. Studies have shown that high school teachers are faced with the challenge of presenting students with a significant amount of information in a short period of time to prepare students for standardized state assessment exams. One possible solution is to implement inquiry-based learning (IBL) to enhance student understanding of STEM subjects and provide students with the skills necessary to succeed before graduating high school. This mixed methods study examined teacher perceptions to IBL, how teacher intent to incorporate IBL into daily lessons affected IBL, and teacher perceived barriers to the implementation of IBL. Quantitative analysis was conducted by analyzing the teacher responses to a modified version of the PRIMAS survey, while qualitative data were obtained from semi-structured interviews. The findings of this study indicated teachers have a positive perception of the principals of IBL and that the intent to implement IBL was correlated to its use in teachers’ daily lessons. The major barriers to IBL implementation were found to be teacher’s belief in student abilities, along with the time constraints, both the time it takes to conduct an inquiry lesson and the time limits placed on them in order to teach the state mandated and school directed curriculum. The teachers perceived barriers were the same regardless of the amount of IBL in daily lessons. This implies that it is teacher intent, and not the perceived barriers that truly limit IBL as a major teaching methodology in the science classroom.

STEM, Inquiry-Based Learning, Teachers, IBL, Methods, Science, Science Education