The Nature of Undergraduate Students’ Conceptions of Inquiry

Dawit Asrat Getahun, Mark Aulls, Alenoush Saroyan


The purpose of this study was to investigate undergraduate students’ conceptions of inquiry. Data were obtained from 212 undergraduates using an open ended questionnaire which required them to define inquiry and explain its importance. Analysis of the participants’ definitions using open coding and constant comparison yielded 13 categories of inquiry conceptions. Closer examination of the derived categories indicated that they could be grouped into three superordinate categories of inquiry as: a learning process, an instructional process, and a research/scientific process. Observation of the prevalence of categories revealed inquiry as a learning process as the most prevalent and inquiry as a research/scientific process as the least prevalent superordinate categories. Particularly, the presence of inquiry as a means of gaining information/knowledge as the most prevalent conception implies that more work is needed to help students develop conceptions that can stimulate productive engagement in inquiry.


conceptions of inquiry; inquiry learning; inquiry instruction

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