A small but positive effect size of enquiry-based STEM-program (best evidence in brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this study may surprise some:

With the increasing interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curricula comes the need for evidence backing these programs. One such science program is The BSCS Inquiry Approach, a comprehensive high school science approach based on three key concepts: constructivism, coherence, and cohesiveness. The materials are built around the 5E process (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate). Teaching focuses on evaluating students’ current understanding and using inquiry methods to move them to higher understandings. Each of the science disciplines (physical science, life science, earth science, and science and society) is composed of four chapters that repeat common themes, which advance over a three-year period. Designing and carrying out experiments in small groups is important in all topics. Teachers receive seven days of professional development each year, including a three-day summer institute and four one-day sessions, enabling sharing of experiences and introducing new content over time.
To determine the effects of The BSCS Inquiry Approach on student achievement, BSCS conducted a two-year cluster-randomized study of the intervention that compared students in grades 10-11 in nine experimental (n=1,509 students) and nine control high schools (n=1,543 students) in Washington State. A total of 45% of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. At the end of two years, the BSCS students scored higher than controls (effect size=+0.09, p<.05) on the Washington State Science Assessments.
I checked the actual approach and it’s 3underpinnings:
  • Students come to the classroom with preconceptions that shape their learning,
  • student competence requires a deep foundation of knowledge, as well as an understanding of how this knowledge relates to a framework,
  • and that students benefit from explicitly monitoring and taking control of their own learning

And if you look closer it is anything but enquiry with minimal guidance:

This study does show that there is much more possible between sometimes extreme poles in educational discussions.

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