Inquiry Based Science Debate

Inquiry-based science has been increasingly promoted as a mainstream teaching approach, especially since the publication of the 1996 Standards in Science education document. However, there are many critics of inquiry-based science.

They point out that inquiry-based science:

-cannot be used to teach students complicated theories and ideas, such as evolution, which were developed by scientists over many decades.

-fails to teach students essential facts and knowledge.

-that many teachers are uncomfortable teaching using this technique.

Science testing has become increasingly important with the No Child Left Behind program, and the rewriting of the National Assessment of Educational Progress to emphasize facts. This has lead to a decrease in emphasis on inquiry as a method of teaching science and a fall back to more traditional 'chalk and talk' methods.

During the 1990s when the calls for the use of inquiry-based science were strongest many teachers felt overwhelmed by what was being demanded of them. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute concludes that while inquiry-based learning is fine to some degree, it has been carried to excess and can damage students.

The debate between traditionalists and progressive teaching specialists continues. It appears increasingly likely that the argument about whether 'traditional' or 'inquiry' is better is purely theoretical, and that in actual fact a mixture of the two is most suitable for effective science teaching in the classroom.