What is inquiry-based learning?

Based on John Dewey’s philosophy that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, one of the most important teaching practices used today is the use of inquiry in the classroom. With the inquiry method of instruction, students arrive at an understanding of concepts by themselves and the responsibility for learning rests with them.

"Inquiry" is defined as "a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge -- seeking information by questioning." Individuals carry on the process of inquiry from the time they are born until they die. This is true even though they might not reflect upon the process. Infants begin to make sense of the world by inquiring. From birth, babies observe faces that come near, they grasp objects, they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. The process of inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses -- seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Teaching through “inquiry” involves engaging students in the research process with instructor support and coaching at a level appropriate to their starting skills. Students learn discipline specific content but in doing so, engage and refine their inquiry skills. An inquiry course:
  • ** Is question driven, rather than topic or thesis driven
    • Begins with a general theme to act as a starting point or trigger for learning
    • Emphasizes asking good researchable questions on the theme, and coaches students in doing this
    • Builds library, interview, and web search skills, along with the critical thinking skills necessary for thoughtful review of the information. Coaches students on how to best report their learning in oral or written form.
    • Provides some mechanism (interviews, drafts, minutes of group meetings, bench mark activities, etc.) to help students monitor their progress within the course.
    • Draws on the expertise and knowledge of the instructor to model effective inquiry and to promote reflection.

Guidelines for creating an Inquiry-based class:

Inquiry-based instruction improves student attitude and achievement, facilitates student understanding, fosters critical thinking skills, and facilitates mathematical discovery. Guidelines for creating an inquiry-based classroom that provide students with the time, space, resources, and safety necessary for learning. An example for Science or Math would include a class that:
  • Engages students in designing the learning environment.
  • Integrates science laboratories into the regular class day
  • Uses inquiry in the mathematics classroom
  • Employs management strategies to facilitate inquiry
  • Reflects the nature of inquiry by displaying and demanding respect for diverse ideas, abilities, and experiences; modeling and emphasizing the skills, attitudes, and values of scientific inquiry: wonder, curiosity, and respect toward nature; enables students to have a significant voice in decisions about the content and context of their work; and nurtures collaboration among students

from: http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/goodpractice/inquiry/strategies.html


Inquiry rubric:

Inquiry-based learning (from the Glenbow museum):

Websites for Inquiry