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This study examines the effectiveness of inquiry-based activities for addressing student misconceptions related to four concept areas in the thermal sciences that have been identified as both important and difficult for students to master: (1) temperature vs. energy, (2) factors that affect the rate vs. the amount of energy transferred, (3) temperature vs. perceptions of hot and cold and (4) the effect of surface properties on thermal radiation. Students' conceptual understanding was assessed using the newly developed Heat and Energy Concept Inventory (HECI). In the control sample, student performance on the overall HECI improved from 49.2% correct to a post-instruction performance of 54.4% correct. Using inquiry-based activities, the mean performance on the HECI improved from 46.6% correct prior to instruction to a postperformance score of 65.7%. Significant learning gains were found in each of the targeted concept areas when the activities were used. The study also examined the impact of the activities on near vs. far transfer of learning and found statistically significant improvements for both, but larger learning gains on HECI items involving near transfer.