Students’ perceptions of the Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) approach in Saudi Arabian public secondary school chemistry classes was investigated. The sample comprised 189 Grade 10 students (male and female) from four schools in the northern and southern regions. Student-centered (POGIL) and teacher-focused chemistry teaching approaches were applied using the same instructional materials to randomly selected gendered experimental and control groups over a four-week period in winter 2018. Results from analyzing What is Happening in This Class? (WIHIC) data revealed that POGIL helped students more actively engage in the classroom thus enabling them to perceive their chemistry learning experience as positive and academically effective. POGIL also improved students’ affective traits such as cohesiveness and personal relevance. There were no gendered differences in overall WIHIC scores. Results suggest that (a) POGIL mitigates the impact of borrowing education curricula and policies from Western countries and (b) Saudi pre-service and inservice teachers should receive POGIL training because POGIL works in the Saudi educational context.