While researching my question, I came across an interesting article/research paper that determined if inquiry-based instruction provided any noticeable changes in concept mastery, use of process skills, application of science concept and skills, student attitudes toward science, student creativity, and student perceptions regarding their science classrooms. The article can be found by going to the following link:
To summarize the article, twelve teachers split students into two sections. Half of the students were taught using traditional methods; the other half was taught using an inquiry-based approach. Data was collected in the form of pre and post assessments for both sections to decipher if more progress was made in one section over another. The pre-tests were given in the beginning of a unit and the post tests were given at the end.
After analyzing the data, researchers found that students who experienced their science as inquiry were as successful as those who experienced science as a direct mastery of concepts. One was not found to be better than the other when it came to concept mastery; however, in the case of creativity/critical thinking skills the students in the inquiry-based science classrooms grew significantly over students in the traditional classroom. Students in the inquiry-based science classrooms also showed a significant growth in positive attitudes towards science, as well as a better and more appropriate perception of the nature of science.
Overall, this study concluded that both approaches can teach students science concepts, but the inquiry-based approach engages students and builds on other skills such as critical thinking and creativity.