Inquiry-Based Learning: Definition, Benefits & Process

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) represents a dynamic approach to education, focusing on questioning, critical thinking, and problem-solving. It contrasts traditional learning methods, emphasising student-centered learning where learners are actively involved in their learning process through inquiry.

What is Inquiry Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning is an educational strategy where students learn by engaging in inquiry-oriented activities. It encourages learners to explore, ask questions, and use their natural curiosity to drive learning. This approach fosters deeper understanding, as students are not merely passive recipients of information but active participants in their learning journey.

Inquiry Based Learning Examples

Some examples demonstrate how inquiry-based learning actively engages students in exploring and applying knowledge, moving beyond rote memorisation to foster a deeper, more meaningful understanding of various subjects.

  1. Science – Ecosystem Observation: Instead of solely relying on textbook information, students in a science class could engage in studying local ecosystems directly. This could involve field trips to nearby forests or rivers where students observe and document wildlife, plant species, and environmental interactions. This hands-on approach aligns with a study by Ballantyne and Packer in “Nature-based Excursions: School Students’ Perceptions of Learning in Natural Environments” (International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 2002), which emphasises the value of direct environmental engagement in enhancing understanding of ecological concepts.
  2. Mathematics – Real-World Problem Solving: In a mathematics class, students could be tasked with solving practical problems. For instance, calculating the required materials and costs for constructing a small bridge in a community park. This method of applying mathematical concepts to real-life scenarios is supported by Boaler (1993) in “The Role of Contexts in the Mathematics Classroom: Do They Make Mathematics More ‘Real’?” (For the Learning of Mathematics), which highlights the effectiveness of contextual learning in enhancing mathematical understanding and application.
  3. History – Investigative Research Projects: Students could undertake a research project where they delve into a historical event or era. By analysing primary sources, such as historical documents, letters, and artifacts, they actively engage in the process of historical inquiry. This approach is echoed in the research of Levstik and Barton in “Doing History: Investigating With Children in Elementary and Middle Schools” (2001), where they advocate for an investigative approach in history education to deepen students’ understanding and interest in the subject.
  4. Language Arts – Literature Circles: In language arts, students could participate in literature circles where they read, discuss, and analyse a book collectively. This collaborative inquiry-based approach enhances comprehension and encourages critical thinking and discussion skills. Murphy et al. in their study “Literature Circles in EFL Curriculum? A Quantitative and Qualitative Glimpse at Students’ Attitudes and Prospects for Language Acquisition” (Reading in a Foreign Language, 2009) underline the benefits of such interactive and inquiry-focused methods in language learning.

4 Levels of Inquiry-Based Learning

Transitioning into the various levels of inquiry-based learning, it’s important to understand that each level offers a different degree of autonomy and complexity in the learning process.

4 Levels of Inquiry-Based Learning

Here’s a closer look at each level:

  1. Confirmation Inquiry: Students follow specific instructions to reach a known outcome, reinforcing previously learned concepts. This level is foundational, focusing on understanding basic methods or principles, like in introductory science experiments.
  2. Structured Inquiry: Students are given a question and a procedure but analyse results and form explanations independently. This level promotes critical thinking within a structured framework, such as predicting outcomes in chemistry experiments.
  3. Guided Inquiry: Students receive a question but devise their own methods for investigation. This level enhances creativity and problem-solving skills, like in environmental research projects where students choose their data collection methods.
  4. Open Inquiry: The highest independence level, where students formulate their own questions, methods, and conclusions, is suitable for advanced learners engaging in self-directed projects, like in student-led scientific research.

Benefits Of Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) offers a range of benefits as an interactive and impactful educational method, promoting more proactive involvement in learning. Notable advantages include:

  • Enhanced Critical Thinking: IBL encourages students to actively question, analyse, and evaluate information. This active engagement leads to the development of superior critical thinking skills, enabling learners to assess situations and information more effectively.
  • Improved Problem-Solving Skills: By actively engaging in problem identification and solution development, students in IBL settings enhance their problem-solving abilities. They learn to approach challenges methodically, applying learned concepts to find practical solutions.
  • Increased Motivation and Engagement: IBL’s interactive nature boosts student motivation and interest in the subject matter. When learners are directly involved in the learning process, they are more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic about their studies.
  • Deeper Understanding of Subject Matter: IBL facilitates a comprehensive grasp of topics. Students explore subjects in-depth, leading to a more profound and lasting understanding of the material.
  • Effective Application in Real-World Contexts: IBL equips students with the ability to apply their knowledge practically. This hands-on approach ensures that learners can transfer classroom concepts to real-life scenarios with ease.

Inquiry-based Learning Process

The IBL process can be outlined in 4 key steps:

  1. Posing Real Questions: Students identify and articulate real-life problems or questions.
    • Example: In a science class, students might ask, “How does the pH level of soil affect plant growth?” This question encourages exploration and experimentation.
  2. Finding Relevant Resources: Learners gather information from various sources to investigate the posed questions.
    • Example: For the soil pH question, students could research academic articles, consult experts in botany, or gather data from existing case studies.
  3. Interpreting Information: Analysis and synthesis of information occur, leading to new understandings.
    • Example: After collecting data, students might analyse their findings to understand the relationship between soil acidity and plant health, using statistical tools or comparative studies.
  4. Reporting Findings: Students present their findings and conclusions, often leading to further questions and inquiry.
    • Example: Students could create a presentation or a report detailing their findings on soil pH and plant growth, discussing their methodology, results, and potential implications for farming practices.

Each of these steps is designed to be accessible and engaging, encouraging a deeper, professional, and academically-oriented approach to learning.

FAQs about Inquiry-based Learning

FAQs about Inquiry-based Learning

Let’s delve into some common questions about Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) and its application, particularly in STEM education:

Learn Better with UNIS Hanoi

Inquiry-based learning is a transformative approach that fosters a deeper, more engaging, and more practical learning experience.

By adopting IBL, educators can equip students with the skills and mindset necessary for success in an increasingly complex and technology-driven world. As research and practice continue to evolve, the role of IBL in shaping future generations of thinkers and innovators becomes ever more crucial.

At UNIS Hanoi, we can provide your child with an enriching environment to learn and grow. Discover more here about our curriculum today!

Author Profile

UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.
Scroll to Top