This study compared two levels of inquiry in high school physics classrooms over a year-long course. One class fit well the definition of guided-inquiry and the other matched common descriptions of open-inquiry. Four sections of introductory physics at Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah were randomly divided into two sections for each treatment. The majority of students in all classes were sophomores with relatively few juniors and seniors. The guided-inquiry classes followed the Modeling Instruction Program developed at Arizona State University, while the open-inquiry classes were be based on an approach used by Wolff-Michael Roth, at the University of Victoria, British Colombia. The independent variable in this study was the level of inquiry of the high school physics class. The dependent variables of interest were the students' short-term and long-term understanding of introductory physics concepts as well as the student's attitudes towards physics. The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) and the Utah State Criterion Referenced Physics Test (CRT) were used to judge learning of physics concepts and the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS) was used to analyze changes in views towards physics. FCI results showed no statistically significant differences in short-term or long-term mean scores between the two treatments. Small practical significance was found in the greater short-term mean gain scores of the guided-inquiry class with an effect size of .34. The CRT showed the open-inquiry class to have a higher mean score that was slightly statistically significant (p-value of .049) and at a medium level of practical significance with an effect size of .43. A curious result arose when comparing the scores on each of the FCI posttests. The open-inquiry treatment had a higher increase in average gain score that was found to have statistical significance with a p-value of .010 as well as practical significance in the medium range with an effect size of .57. Both treatments were found to have somewhat unfavorable effects on students' opinions towards physics. Additionally, the open-inquiry treatment had a more polarizing effect on the attitudes of students towards physics. Open-inquiry students responded particularly positively on questions addressing "Problem Solving." For the open-inquiry students, positive shifts were strongest in questions addressing "Real World Connections" and "Personal Interest."



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





physics, education, high school, guided-inquiry, open-inquiry, inquiry, secondary education