13.  Why Might Students have Difficulty with Inquiry-Based Leaning?


Students may have difficulty in learning science through inquiry for several reasons: lack of experience with inquiry, difficulty with the investigation’s subject matter, the choice of problems to investigate and they may not have been appropriately guided through the investigation. 


A study conducted by Krajcik et al (1998) reported students’ limited experience with inquiry as being a source of many of the difficulties encountered in their learning through inquiry. Difficulties were attributed to students’ failure to:



  • Generate high-level driving questions that can be applied to small-scale investigations;
  • Discuss ideas systematically;
  • Consider ideas systematically;
  • Make connections between evidence and hypothesis;
  • Use evidence they generated in considering their questions;
  • Have experience in gathering and interpreting data/information and drawing conclusions.


For these reasons, it is essential students have a basic understanding of inquiry if inquiry-based methods are to be successfully applied in teaching science.


Inquiry-based instruction must emphasize the “how do we come to know what we know” of science, not just the “what” of science. Inquiry should not be presented solely as a procedure or that which is devoid of content, as either will contribute to losing its meaning and substance.




1.  Krajcik, J. Blumenfield, P. C., Marx, R. W., Bass, K. M., Fredricks, J., & Soloway, E. (1998). Inquiry in Project-Based Science Classrooms: Initial Attempts by Middle School Students. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 7 (3/4), 313-350.