Clinical Study of the BSCS 5E Instructional Model

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of inquiry-based instruction as compared to commonplace science teaching
  • Inquiry group showed significantly higher ability to apply understanding of concepts and made significantly more accurate scientific claims
  • No differences by race on the posttest for inquiry-based students but significant gaps in the commonplace group
  • Funding source: National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education (NIH OSE)

Despite decades of research and various forms of evidence, the effectiveness of inquiry-based materials and/or teaching has yet to be established in studies incorporating rigorous research designs. A small number of recent studies have even caused some to question the effectiveness of inquiry-based instruction as compared to some more didactic approaches to science teaching. In this study, BSCS sought to examine the effectiveness of an inquiry-based instructional unit organized around the BSCS 5E Instructional Model, as compared to the same unit organized around commonplace teaching strategies. Since significant achievement gaps by gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status remain despite the long-standing call for science for all Americans, the project disaggregated data by various student demographic variables to examine if inquiry-based instruction can provide equitable opportunities to learn.

A total of 58 students aged 14–16 participated in the study in the summer of 2007, each being randomly assigned to one of the two treatment conditions. The results are exciting, and indicate that while there were no significant differences between the groups with respect to their ability to recall facts and vocabulary from the module, the group using the BSCS 5E Instructional Model showed a significantly higher ability to apply their understanding of concepts to new contexts, and to integrate environmental and molecular level systems in the explanations of organismal-level sleep behavior. This difference was statistically significant (p<0.05) with an effect size of 0.47 (Cohen’s d).

For the full report, click here.