Inquiry Based Learning

How to implement Inquiry Based Learning?

(Free Printable Botanical Research journal inside)

This article has a deeper investigated material regarding inquiry based learning.


Inquiry based learning has existed for thousands of years nearly in the 1900s. All in all it begins with the basic principle that the way to make sense of the world is through inquiry. From infancy onward, the process of gathering information, data & knowledge starts with seeing, hearing, touching, tasting & smelling. It’s a critical component of  scientific method of the early enlightenment and it was a core idea of both John Dewey and Maria Montessori around Student Centered Learning.

American Philosopher and psychologist John Dewy claimed, “ Give the pupils something to do not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demands thinking; learning naturally results.”

It eventually surfaced a debate that is learning something you do or something you’re taught?


Inquiry based learning is a pedagogy which best enable the students to experience the processes of knowledge creation and the key attributes are learning stimulated by inquiry, a student centered approach, a move to self directed learning & an active approach to learning.

McMaster University in Canada has been teaching inquiry for over 20 years. They define inquiry as a form of self directed learning in which students take more responsibility for:

  • Determining what they need to learn
  • Identifying resources and how best to learn from them.
  • Using resources and reporting their learning.
  • Assessing their progress in learning

“Tell me & I forget, show me & I remember, involve me & I understand.”

Elements of this approach have their origins in antiquity and are discernible in the teaching Confucius & Socrates. Philosophers as early as Spinoza in the 17TH century purported that knowledge is found in the manipulation of ideas rather than transmission of facts.

Inquiry Based Learning and The Holy Quran:

Quranic findings also promotes the higher order thinking in order to learn actively.

Surah Al-JATHIYA (verse 13)

Translation in English:

He also subjected for you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth—all by His grace. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.

Exploring. Inquiry-based learning empowers students to take an active role in their education. It sparks curiosity, encourages critical thinking, and promotes deep understanding.

Discipline  Based Inquiry:

The Galileo Educational Network Association (2008) created a disciplined based inquiry Rubric that outlines inquiry as a process involving a number of core characteristics:

1.The inquiry study is authentic in that it emanates from a question, problem,issue, or exploration that is significant to the disciplines and connects students to the world beyond the school.

  • Students are given opportunities to create products or culminating work that contributes to the building of new knowledge.
  • Assignments or activities foster deep knowledge and understanding.
  • 4Ongoing formative assessment loops are woven into the design of the inquiry study and involve detailed descriptive feedback.
  • The study requires students to observe and interact with exemplars and expertise, including professionals in the field, drawn from the disciplinary field under study.
  • Students are given the opportunity to communicate their ideas and insights in powerful ways through a myriad of media.
  •  Student’ final product of communication through public presentations and exhibitions.

Characteristics of Inquiry Based Learning:

  • Engagement:

Engagement-with a complex problem or scenario-that is sufficiently open ended to allow a variety of responses or solutions.

  • Inquired Methodology:

Students direct the lines of inquiry and the methods employed.

  • Draw on Existing Knowledge:

The inquiry requires students to draw on existing knowledge.

  • Develops Curiosity:

 Tasks stimulate curiosity in students, encouraging them to actively explore and seek out new evidence.

  • Elaboration & Evaluation:

Responsibility falls to the students for analysing & presenting that evidence in appropriate ways and in support of their own problem.

A Contructivist Approach:

According to the constructivist theory of learning, effective teaching must offer experiences that:

  • Built on what students already know so they can build connections.
  • Encourage students to become active and self directed learners.
  • Provide authentic learning strategies.
  • Collaborative and cooperative learning.

Keeping a constructivist view in the classroom that you are partnered with your student, you co design and co construct with your students rather than making the students  memorize the already told facts and passively perceiving the knowledge.

Students learning should not be based on teacher directed activities but students should learn the skills to synthesize, interpret & evaluate.

Teacher should act as a facilitator rather than a provider of information, this includes open ended questions, resources to explore & research, ideas to engage and space to  experiment.

According to Peter Kahn & Karen O’Rourke concluded in their research paper from the University of Manchester that:

“ In defining the territory of inquiry based learning, there is an evident overlap with Problem Based Learning (PBL), in which the handling of a problem defines and derives the whole learning experience of the students, inquiry based learning while incorporating with PBL also involves small scale investigations and project work.”

Levels of Inquiry:

There are three levels of Inquiry

  • Structured
  • Guided
  • Open
  1. Structured:

Where the teacher mainly directs the inquiry, the teacher provides a question to be investigated and will then provide step by step instructions to help the student discover the answers.

 This will help the students to develop their abilities to conduct more open ended inquires.

  • Guided:

Here the teacher generally chooses the questions and students establish a direction and methods of their inquiry.

  • Open:

In an open inquiry the students take the lead in establishing the  questions and methods to inquire. It require high order thinking.

Teacher can mold all the three levels according to the understanding and need of the students.

Responsibilities of an IBL facilitator:

  • Asking open ended questions that provoke further discussion and stimulates exploration.
  • Supporting students, motivating them to engage with the tasks and valuing their ideas and contributions.
  • Encouraging students to reflect on their experiences.
  • Monitoring progress and ensuring that student understand where they are in the process.
  • Challenging students thinking, encouraging them to extend their boundaries & to seek new ways to work with problems & situations.
  • Developing an atmosphere of trust so that students can share their ideas and philosophies.

Advantages of Inquiry Based Learning:

  1. Allows the development of a wide range of abilities: Knowledge-creation; team- working; problem solving; project management.
  2. Fill gaps in the knowledge they passively receive.
  3. Exploration o theories in realistic contexts.
  4. Deep approach to learning students make their on set of ideas and connections between them.
  5. Encourages skillful research work.  
  6. Students able to work on their own pace.
  7. Builds a passionate learning experience.

Evaluation of Inquiry Based Learning:

It is worth noting that the assessment criteria will need to closely reflect the nature of inquiry, as well as the characteristics of the specific method of assessment.

Types of Assessments:

Following types of assessments adds meaning to inquiry based learning and engage students for better outcomes.

  1. Journals
  2. Reports
  3. Portfolios
  4. Presentation


A Handful of studies were related that all concur in terms of IBL producing improved student learning in terms of students engagement, academic achievement  & higher order learning outcomes. This learning approach is applicable in all disciplines and at all stages.

Free Printable (Botanical Research Journal):

This is a very interesting approach while you are  introducing inquiry based learning in your classroom by having this personalized journal for your students. You can download it in PDF by clicking below.

1 thought on “How to implement Inquiry Based Learning?”

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