Inquiry-Based Learning: What is It All About?

In inquiry-based learning, students are not given the answers, but rather are guided through an inquiry process to develop their knowledge. This process requires students to investigate questions relevant to them personally or within an academic context.

Depending on your goals, inquiry-based learning is different from the traditional means of learning. It is more fundamental. Instead of simply being told what to do, students can think critically about the action and come up with a solution.

Take a deeper look at what this type of learning entails. 

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning is a way of teaching and learning. It focuses on “inquiry”—asking questions, discovering new information, solving problems—as the basis for students’ active involvement in learning. 

During the inquiry process, students learn by investigating, solving problems together, and gaining new understanding. In inquiry-based learning, teachers are guides on the learning journey, not experts or managers. 

How Does Inquiry-Based Learning Work?

Inquiry-Based Learning is a teaching methodology where students are the explorers – they drive the learning. In this model of learning, students inquire about a topic or issue, answer their questions, test their hypothesis, and analyze the data. 

Unlike other teaching methods most classrooms use today, inquiry-based learning requires a lot of skill from both the teacher and the student. It introduces students to authentic problems or issues that guide them to develop their understanding and skills in the context of inquiry-based learning. 

Through such intensive experiences, they gain real-world knowledge and skills they can use in everyday life.

SEE: Types of learning

Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning 

1. Enhances culture of creativity and collaboration

Inquiry-based learning helps you embrace a more open-minded and creative process of education. It has several benefits. For one thing, it transforms classrooms from being passive to active learners. 

In this type of classroom culture, students are not just passive recipients of the information imparted by teachers but participants in the learning activity. In addition, many innovative business organizations also use this method as a training tool and to keep employees’ minds sharp.

SEE: Why is employee development important?

2. Develops student’s inquiry and thinking skills

Inquiry-based learning is a type of education that focuses on student inquiry, knowledge construction, and learning. The goal is to ask higher-order questions that support critical thinking. 

As a result, students develop inquiry and thinking skills as they have to explore information. Consequently, they must analyze and connect their findings, as well as construct knowledge from those connections.

 Students become responsible for constructing knowledge through investigation rather than depending on the teacher to spoon-feed the information.

3. Builds students curiosity

The concept of inquiry-based learning aims to get students involved in their education rather than just being lectured to. One of the biggest benefits of this style of learning is that it builds students’ curiosity. When students are allowed to investigate, produce, and discover on their own accord it inspires them to ask questions.

4. Students develop confidence and self-reliance

As I said earlier, inquiry-based learning is active and participatory. The student takes the initiative and works independently or in a workgroup to solve problems or create new knowledge.   

The student has the freedom and responsibility to explore topics that interest him (her).  With this active approach, he (she) develops a mindset of confidence and self-reliance.

5. It promotes active and deep learning and reinforces learning retention

Inquiry learning is a method that encourages people, particularly students, to think critically about a particular topic or issue. 

This type of learning is a powerful tool in the classroom because it allows the students to be autonomous and active. 

It also helps students practice critical thinking and enhance their understanding of concepts in a highly effective manner.

What is the Inquiry-Based Learning Process?

1. Students come up with questions they want to explore

The inquiry-based learning process starts with students generating questions for things they want to learn about. The teacher can guide their thinking a little bit, but it’s really a matter of the students starting with a question and then doing research to find the answer. 

This type of learning is a powerful method for improving student achievement in the classroom. Students engage in immediate, hands-on learning about a topic based on their interests and curiosities. 

With this type of approach, students should be encouraged to self-select topics and cater programs around their interests and concerns.

2. Spend time in class researching the topic

Following students’ selection of topics, students conduct research and use class time to further explore those interests. 

Following research, students create products that serve as the basis for further discussion between peers and instructors in class or online.

Research is the key, and they do it themselves. Furthermore, all members of the class need to participate in asking questions, whether they make their questions or answer others’ questions.

3. Have students present their findings

This means to further flesh out their task. Students present their findings by creating a presentation, explaining how they found the results and what they can conclude from their research. Another aspect of this step is revising the findings and conclusions, perhaps using feedback from peers or teachers.   

4. Ask students what worked and what did not in the process

The inquiry-based learning process encourages students to investigate topics by doing research, forming hypotheses, and experimenting. Students make findings and observations, draw conclusions, and evaluate the outcomes. 

Teachers direct students by asking questions that allow them to focus on important elements of the inquiry-based learning process. Furthermore, teachers help students determine the lessons they can take away from their investigation by reviewing the results.

Types of Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning is a collaborative and student-centered approach that uses questions, problems, and investigations to learn content. There are many variations of inquiry-based learning, but it can be generally classified into 4 categories:

Confirmation inquiry

Confirmation inquiry is a learning strategy in which a student explores a claim to see if it is accurate. This is done by reading articles, books, and other resources on the topic, conducting outside research or investigation, or seeking feedback from experts. 

If the claim is found to be valid, the student confirms the accuracy of their knowledge. If not, the student learns something new.

Structured inquiry

The purpose of structured inquiry in education is to guide students in the process of forming conclusions about the real world. Students are given an open problem that requires further investigation to fully understand. 

To do this, they work with their teachers, who act as coaches and guides for the learning process. They use historic data, scientific experiments, and computer simulations to determine what is causing the phenomenon at hand.

Guided group inquiry

The teacher introduces an idea or concept then steers the group towards new ideas that build on this initial one. Repetition of key terms and concepts regularly occurs through questions, comments, and demonstrations. 

Teaching moves around the group rather than directing everything to one student or small group. Group discussions regularly occur with students asked to share their thoughts about what has been presented or challenge each other’s ideas.

Open inquiry

Open inquiry is a fluid approach that moves from teacher-guided investigations to guided inquiries to independent research. Students are largely responsible for the structure, available materials, and topic. The instructor is simply there to ensure that students have clear questions and instructions. 

He or she will also be on-hand to answer any questions that may arise. The emphasis is on developing questions rather than providing answers. Teachers act as facilitators to encourage students to ask questions and to help them when they get stuck.

How To Implement Inquiry-Based Learning as a Teacher

1. Define your goals and resources

A key to inquiry-based learning is starting with a clear image of the curriculum you are trying to achieve. It consists of three things: 

  • your personal goals 
  • the resources you have 
  • the kind of environment or setting you have access to

Defining your goal will impact all other decisions made subsequently. The inquiry also helps teachers gain a better understanding of what interests students most. The teacher can use inquiry-based learning to engage students and tailor it to their particular interests and learning styles.

2. Create a plan and follow-through

One of the biggest problems I see with teachers who are looking to implement inquiry-based learning in their classrooms is that they neglect to plan. Inquiry-based learning doesn’t just happen naturally. It takes careful planning, preparation, and follow-through to get it off the ground.

Before starting inquiry-based learning immediately in your classroom, make sure you have your entire school-wide program worked out. That is, make sure you know exactly how you are going to launch your inquiry-based learning curriculum to the entire student body.

3. Create a classroom culture of questioning

Inquiry-based learning is a type of post-secondary education that involves finding the right answer to a problem instead of a predefined solution. When teachers utilize inquiry-based learning, they provide students with a dynamic and active learning environment. 

Thus, providing them with an increased sense of autonomy as they gain proficiency in their subject. 

4. Engage students in an active process of inquiry

Within the classroom, teachers can encourage inquiry-based learning by presenting students with certain open-ended questions or topics for investigation. Such questions usually take the form of “how, when, where, or why?”. 

Teachers allow students to phrase their questions and encourage the invention of the answer process. Students working in smaller groups are often given a common task to accomplish. They then collaborate to find the best solution.

5. Prepare to make changes and be flexible

Incorporating inquiry-based learning into regular curriculum and classroom instruction can be a powerful tool for educators and students. To help students move forward in school, teachers should be flexible and prepared to make changes based on the children’s inquiries. 

SEE: How to make more money as a teacher

How is inquiry-based learning different from the traditional learning method?

Inquiry-based learning is a method of questioning, designing, and carrying out learning experiences for students. It differs from traditional “direct instruction” methods in that it provides learners with learning experiences through questions instead of answers. Learning happens by asking questions rather than telling what something is or how to understand it.

FAQs

Is inquiry-based learning effective?

Yes. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of research supporting the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning. It is one of the most popular instructional paradigms among educators across the country because it improves student engagement and achievement. Besides, it is a top instructional model for several good reasons.

Who can use inquiry-based learning?

Students in first-through-third grade should have exposure to inquiry-based learning through general teacher guidelines. Teachers must provide the general structure for inquiry-based learning, but must allow students to generate their own questions. 

Students should have the freedom to explore ideas that are meaningful to them, allowing them to focus on their interests. This approach fosters role-modeling, allowing students to see how teachers and other professionals problem solve.   

At the advanced level, inquiry-based learning can be used by any individual, business, or organization that is interested in modern teaching techniques.

How do you establish an inquiry-based classroom?

Inquiry-based classrooms are achievable by developing a classroom environment in which students can investigate, collaborate, think critically, and problem solve. In an inquiry-based classroom, the teacher takes on a more guiding role while still taking part in conversations and listening to student ideas.

Final Thoughts 

Inquiry-based learning, as its name implies, emphasizes the importance of inquiry as the most effective method to acquire knowledge and skills. For students to arrive at solutions or answers, they must gather, organize, and interpret data. 

They have to think critically and logically so as not to jump to conclusions, but rather collect enough information before coming up with a conclusion.

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