Classroom Strategies

What is Inquiry Based Learning?

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based classrooms are exciting, full of creativity, and student-driven.  Inquiry-based learning is not a new teaching strategy.  In fact, you probably heard the term in college.  Inquiry-based learning is a teaching model that centers around getting students excited about learning by having them pose questions and investigate to deepen their understanding.  Instead of learning through a teacher’s question, students are learning through their own questions.  We can get our students engaged in learning by letting them explore topics they’re excited about.  An excellent resource to help you on your journey of inquiry-based learning is The Curious Classroom: 10 Structures for Teaching with Student-Directed Inquiry. This book will inspire you to turn your classroom into a student-led, inquiry-based learning environment.

Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning

1.) More meaningful learning experience

Listening to the teacher lecture about photosynthesis is much different (and much less effective) than students planting seeds and watching the process of photosynthesis first hand.  Students will remember experiences in the classroom that excite them.  When students can visualize the process, they are more likely to ask meaningful questions to deepen their understanding of important topics.

2.) Teaches Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential to long-term student success.  As students explore a topic, they are required to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to ask and answer essential questions.  Inquiry-based learning also encourages students to rely on their peers and is conducive to a collaborative learning environment.

3.)  Increase Student Engagement

The more hands-on, engaging lessons you have, the more engaged your students will be.  This active learning approach allows students to explore topics and make their own connections to the material.  You’ll find that students who are often disengaged and how little interest in the classroom, are suddenly excited about learning and willing to explore new topics.

4.) Foster a love of learning

Inquiry-based learning allows students to take ownership of their learning and engage in the materials in a meaningful way.  This approach fosters a love of learning and sets students up for success in the classroom.

How do I Plan an Inquiry-Based Lesson?

Planning an inquiry-based lesson takes time and careful planning.

  • Start with your content.  What is the topic or subject of your lesson?  Once you have a topic, look at it from the standpoint of a student, not of a teacher.  What was it like when you were unfamiliar with the topic and what questions did you have?
  • Create a learning goal.  What do you want your students to take away from this lesson?
  • Teach your students how to ask good questions.   Without engaging, meaningful questions from your students, you won’t have a lesson.  Teach your students how to pose good questions.  Model the spirit of inquiry.
  • Go through the inquiry process.  The most important part of inquiry-based learning is that students are involved in the planning process.  Once a question has been asked, an inquiry-based project can be designed by going through the inquiry process:
    1. Pose real questions
    2. Find resources
    3. Interpret information
    4. Report findings

As teachers, we want to ignite a spark in our students that never burns out.  We want our students to be excited about learning and curious about the world around them.  We are at a critical point in our history where we need critical thinkers, curiosity, and problem solvers.  The only way to create solutions is to pose valuable questions and seek meaningful answers.


Be sure to check out, 5 Steps to Better Guided Reading!  


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