, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 823–836 | Cite as

Inquiry-based learning in mathematics and science: a comparative baseline study of teachers’ beliefs and practices across 12 European countries

  • Katrin Engeln
  • Manfred Euler
  • Katja MaassEmail author
Original Article


In the European educational context, reports by expert groups have identified the necessity of a renewed pedagogy in schools to overcome deficits in science and mathematics teaching and to raise the standards of scientific and mathematical literacy. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is considered the method of choice. However, it remains open to what extent IBL is actually used in day-to-day teaching. In the study presented here we elaborate—from the perspective of teachers—the current status of IBL in day-to-day teaching. Further, we explore what problems teachers anticipate when implementing IBL. In order to gain insight into the wide spectrum of practices in mathematics and science teaching in relation to IBL, a baseline study using teacher questionnaires was carried out in the 12 participating countries. We present selected results from this study that for the first time provides an overview of teachers’ beliefs and their reports on the current use of IBL practices in a European context. The results facilitate a cross-cultural comparison on the potentials and challenges of implementing IBL from the perspective of practicing teachers. Furthermore, the study reveals considerable differences between the teaching of mathematics and science subjects. The findings of the baseline study can serve as a reference line against which the impact of interventions to improve the quality of teaching and learning can be evaluated.


Inquiry-based learning PRIMAS Teachers’ beliefs Subject differences Cultural differences 



This paper is based on the work within the project PRIMAS—Promoting Inquiry in Mathematics and Science Education Across Europe ( Project coordination: University of Education, Freiburg (Germany). Partners: University of Genève (Switzerland), Freudenthal Institute, University of Utrecht (The Netherlands), MARS—Shell Centre, University of Nottingham (UK), University of Jaen (Spain), Konstantin the Philosopher University in Nitra (Slovak Republic), University of Szeged (Hungary), Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus), University of Malta (Malta), Roskilde University, Department of Science, Systems and Models (Denmark), University of Manchester (UK), Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca (Romania), Sør-Trøndelag University College (Norway), IPN-Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Kiel (Germany). PRIMAS has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement No. 244380. This paper reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Institute for Science and Mathematics EducationKielGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Mathematical EducationUniversity of Education FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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