The scientific method of asking a question, doing background research, forming a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by designing and completing an experiment, analyzing the results, and explaining your conclusions maps perfectly to the definition of inquiry-based learning.

So, it's only natural that the best way to learn science is by doing science -- ie, participating in inquiry.

Why Inquiry-Based Learning is Perfectly Suited for Science Class

Inquiry-based learning allows students to take control of their own learning through discovery: asking questions, researching, and exploring ideas and answers. Some benefits include:

  • Engagement
  • Excitement
  • Curiosity
  • Better retainment of material
  • Hone critical thinking skills

In terms of science, Dr. Robyn M. Gillies explains that "inquiry-based science challenges students' thinking by engaging them in investigating scientifically orientated questions where they learn to give priority to evidence, evaluate explanations in the light of alternative explanations and learn to communicate and justify their decisions. These are dispositions needed to promote and justify their decisions," which is not only essential in the field of science, but in mostly all areas of academic and civic life.

How Can I Use Inquiry as a K-12 teacher?

First, check out this wonderful blog post by science teacher Jill Elliot. She details her journey to implementing inquiry in her classes, and explains why she loves the 5E Model of Instruction.

5E Model of Instruction

According to Lesley University, "The 5E Model, developed in 1987 by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, promotes collaborative, active learning in which students work together to solve problems and investigate new concepts by asking questions, observing, analyzing, and drawing conclusions."

5E Model

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate

We also love this infographic explanation.

How do I use this information to design an inquiry lesson?

The good news is that your expertise as a science teacher and scientist will come in handy. Any experiment you've already taught is an opportunity for inquiry. But here are some resources to help you think about it from a theoretical framework and make sure your students are learning how to direct their own learning.

Higher-Ed Science Inquiry