Using a Self-Determination Theory Approach to Understand Student Perceptions of Inquiry-Based Learning


  • FangFang Zhao Nanjing Normal University
  • Gillian Roehrig University of Minnesota
  • Lorelei Patrick Fort Hays State University
  • Chantal Levesque-Bristol Purdue University
  • Sehoya Cotner University of Minnesota, University of Bergen



inquiry-based learning, Self-Determination Theory (SDT), student perceptions, laboratory activities


Inquiry-based laboratory activities, as a part of science curricula, have been advocated to increase students’ learning outcomes and improve students’ learning experiences, but students sometimes struggle with open-inquiry activities. This study aims to investigate students’ perceptions of inquiry-based learning in a set of laboratory activities, specifically from a psychological (i.e., Self-Determination Theory) perspective. Students’ ratings of the level of inquiry in these activities indicate that students’ perceptions of inquiry align with the instructor-intended amount of inquiry in each exercise. Students’ written responses, explaining their ratings, indicate that students’ perceptions of the amount of inquiry in a given lab exercise relate to their feeling of freedom (or autonomy), competence, and relatedness (or support), during the inquiry-based learning activities. The results imply that instructors implementing inquiry-based learning activities should consider student motivation, and Self-Determination Theory can be a useful diagnostic tool during teaching development.


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How to Cite

Zhao, FangFang, Gillian Roehrig, Lorelei Patrick, Chantal Levesque-Bristol, and Sehoya Cotner. 2021. “Using a Self-Determination Theory Approach to Understand Student Perceptions of Inquiry-Based Learning”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9 (2).