Inquiry-Based Learning

15 min read
Inquiry-Based Learning

When we talk about inquiry-based learning methods, it is important to remember that this method is specially designed to trigger students’ curiosity. Instructors or teaching figures normally question students about what they already know. However, inquiry emphasizes wanting to know what the student would rather like to know.

Inquiry-Based Learning

In fact, it goes beyond asking a student what they want to know. With methods of inquiry-based learning tactics, a teacher triggers curiosity in the student’s mind to go the extra mile to know more.

This suggests that now it is more than mere delivery of information. Rather, it is a transfer of responsibilities and goals.

With that being said, inquiry-based learning also takes some burden off of instructors’ shoulders. How? Well, inquiry allows students to learn the most necessary information on their own.

Although it is a complex method at first, inquiry-based learning is quite effective at engaging students and teachers. This is done in a healthy manner, with both parties getting impressive benefits.

As a teacher, you must be aware of how difficult it is to develop children’s interests, so they feel excited to learn. Well, it seems impossible unless you start using appropriate inquiry-based learning strategies. Read on to find out the what, whys, and how.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

First and foremost, inquiry-based learning uses inquiry as to its main essence. By definition, inquiry refers to seeking knowledge, information, and truth. In particular, you seek information through questioning.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning

As humans, we carry out the process of inquiry throughout our lives, which is what is implied in inquiry-based learning as well. Even if you might not reflect on the process of what you’re doing, you do tend to inquire from time to time.

For example, even infants make sense of the world through the process of inquiry. They observe faces, grasp objects, and recognize voices. Even in elementary school, students learn difficult concepts, like angles, through questioning. This suggests that we begin inquiring by making use of our senses: hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling.

IBL or inquiry-based learning starts with questioning, just like the normal process of inquiry. It is a teaching and learning approach that focuses on the questions, observations, and ideas from the students’ end.

Teachers use this mode of learning to actively encourage students to participate in different forms of guided learning. It allows students to share their thoughts, as well as to challenge, test, and redefine the ideas being discussed or taught.

With inquiry-based learning, students feel curious and excited to learn, so they take responsibility for their own learning. This not only effectively answers all of their questions but also helps them effectively engage with their study material.

When students practice inquiry-based learning in the classroom, they spontaneously ask questions. In fact, some inquiry-based teachers also prompt their students to ask questions about a particular topic.

Students can get answers to questions and problems by conducting research, engaging in activities, or collaborating with their peers to pursue answers and solutions. In all of the methods, learning stems from ‘inquiring’ or ‘questioning.’

How does it Work?

Are you wondering what inquiry-based learning is and why experts are raving about it? Although teaching methods have greatly evolved, they’re still lacking somewhere. For the most part, it’s a lack of students’ interest in the class. However, the students are not to blame. The root cause for the attitude of the students often lies in the teaching method.

Even when you’re trying to help students out by allowing them to ask questions when they want to know something, it is not as helpful. Have you ever asked your students whether they have any questions after teaching a lesson?

What response do you usually get? Chances are that not many students express an interest in learning more about the particular topic. Teachers who use inquiry-based learning can combat this attitude and even eliminate it at all times.

In fact, inquiry-based learning generates incredible excitement in students, and they become curious to learn and answer their own questions. You must have heard the adage ‘tell me, and I forget, show me, and I remember, involve me, and I understand.’

How does it Work

While you must have used visual information such as diagrams and images to develop multi-sensory skills in your students, it is not enough. You must use inquiry-based learning to develop knowledge and understanding.

In fact, it is all about involving your students so that they can seek solutions to issues and answers to any questions that they may have. Inquiry-based learning encourages students to develop new skills and find their own content area spots. Meanwhile, you can go on to construct new knowledge and deliver information as you would normally do.

4 Phases of the Inquiry Process- A Guide for Teachers

4 Phases of the Inquiry Process- A Guide for Teachers

Inquiry-based learning requires a teacher to trigger the element of interest and inquiry in their students. Although it sounds quite simple, engaging students is difficult if you want them to ask questions, challenge their perceptions, and learn something new.

For this, you need to be able to model enthusiasm in order to generate it among your students. According to
, a greater curiosity quotient indicates better flexibility that helps build an ability to handle complexity. This is why teachers model their own quotient of curiosity in front of students.

Besides, there are four major phases of inquiry-based learning that help achieve maximum benefits.

Initial Understandings

In the first phase of the inquiry, teachers orient the students to a goal, problem, or phenomenon. They learn about a particular topic by becoming oriented. Then, they go on and formulate their own questions. In fact, they may also draft their understandings of the topic along with the questions.

This is known as the initial understanding stage in inquiry-based learning methods. From these explorations regarding a topic, students are able to formulate hypotheses and questions. This greatly helps them reflect on their current knowledge, which increases during the process.

For example, you can ask your students a question about the core idea of the topic. If you are teaching about different languages in the world, you might want to let them define what a language means for them.

This way, they will reflect on their current information that will mostly be based on their general knowledge and past experiences, etc. Using inquiry-based learning and allowing students to dive into their own minds before delivering further information makes them more oriented to the topic later on.

Initial Understandings

Combining research with general information that they already have is also a great way of engaging their attention and developing interest. After all, looking back at past experiences allows a person to be more attentive and present to the particular topic.

During this stage of inquiry-based learning, students end up forming their own definitions of the chosen core element. And as the lesson continues, they keep exploring and building on it.

Conducting Analysis

In the first stage, students formulate their initial understanding of a topic. Teachers require them to draft their understanding along with any questions that they might have. As they move on to the second stage of inquiry-based learning, it is time to conduct analysis.

Students begin addressing their problems and finding their answers by designing experiments, conducting research, collecting data online and offline, etc. This also includes looking at the topic from different perspectives and various resources.

Not only this, but students may also participate in different activities that can help them acquire further information about the particular topic. This can include physical activities such as visiting a place or watching documentaries in a group.

As they study the topic from different perspectives and through different methods, they expand their initial knowledge. From time to time, this step of inquiry-based learning expects them to go back to their understanding and modify it according to what they just learned.

As teachers expect students to increase their understanding through analysis and research, they also provide them with an outline. However, this method varies from teacher to teacher as they may have better ideas to help students.

The idea remains the same, though, to keep a record of their knowledge from initial understanding to the final information. So, the second phase of inquiry-based learning involves students critically analyzing given data, conducting research, and refining their ideas of the core question.

As another example, you can also give your student a certain question regarding statistics. Here, the students must use their data to answer the question on their own, based on general knowledge or past experiences. Then, they can go around and participate in activities to modify their answer based on research.


The third stage of inquiry-based learning is the questioning phase. This holds crucial importance for several reasons, but mostly to avoid misinformation and misunderstandings. Other than this, questioning also helps eliminate uneven confidence, inability to look at the bigger picture, and lack of organization.


The idea of this phase is to drive continuous and self-directed inquiry through ‘inquiry’ or asking questions. Here, students are able to get a much better idea of the topic compared to their knowledge in other phases of inquiry-based learning.

In fact, students also look back at their initial understandings to discuss their new findings in this stage. The framework proposes discussions and comprehensive inquiry regarding new information that comes from research and analyses.

At first, the students discuss how they acquired the information and how it is relevant. Then, after it has merged with the old study material and initial understanding, they move on to finalizing them in a new framework. However, this cannot be done without questioning the new knowledge.

Just as how students question and challenge the information given to them in the first stage, they question the new information. This helps them record the most relevant information only, without any claims that are not backed by evidence, stats, etc.

Students and teachers will have to go back and forth between the second and third phases. This will help them develop a relevant understanding of the concept. At this point, it is important to address any and all questions that may otherwise seem irrelevant or flawed.

Drawing Conclusions

Once the research is complete, new knowledge is built on initial understanding, and misunderstandings are cleared up, it is time to draw conclusions. The final stage of inquiry-based learning emphasizes critical inquiry, allowing students to synthesize their newly-learned information and exploration.

So, how do students draw out a conclusion and get a thesis? This becomes possible with making arguments, synthesizing information, and locating the position of their own research in the bigger landscape. After all, each student will have their own contribution to possible theories and explanations of a topic.

Here, the outline that a teacher creates in the second stage of inquiry-based learning serves a greater purpose. Students can revise and redefine this outline at the end of it all by presenting their work to their peers and receiving feedback. They may end up in arguments and debates and long discussions. In the end, this will help them formulate a final course paper.

Not only this, but then the students also present a final paper and support their assertions with its help. Teachers can also use online aids to assist students in the synthesizing process of inquiry-based learning. A wide range of technologies is available with tools that aid reflection, concept maps, and argument construction software.

These help students synthesize their explorations from the previous stages and draw conclusions. Inquiry-based approaches like this can deepen learning as teachers support initial understanding, encourage in-depth analyses, and provide help in the synthesizing process.

Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning stems from students’ questions and curiosity. This motivates them to further investigate a topic and acquire new skills and material. It is especially beneficial for students who don’t respond well normally.

Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning has many benefits, including:

  • It nurtures the passions, talents, and interests of students
  • It empowers student’s voice
  • Students feel honored for their choices
  • It encourages curiosity and increases engagement
  • Students tend to develop formal and informal research skills
  • It allows students to take an active role in the learning process

Bottom Line

Inquiry-based learning offers numerous benefits as opposed to the traditional methods of teaching and learning. It sparks curiosity and interest in students as they experience better engagement with their content. It emerges from questions that often remain unanswered.

With the 4 phases of inquiry-based learning, students are responsible for their own learning and finding answers to their questions.