What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Learn the fundamentals about teaching in an Inquiry-based learning methodology.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning” - Albert Einstein

It’s incredible to feel the energy of your students around you, asking questions that you hadn’t thought of before, pursuing THEIR curiosity, and taking full ownership of their learning.

Inquiry-based learning is a teaching method that gives students the opportunity to run the classroom. The classroom becomes a space for student-led exploration -- they ask questions and investigate and research in order to answer them.

Inquiry-based learning has four types: confirmation, structured, guided, and open inquiry, and these student-led learning methods can be used for all subjects, from K-12 to higher ed.

3 Benefits of Student Question-Asking

During the inquiry-learning process, students practice research skills, reflect on progress toward a goal, summarize and communicate their findings, and much more.

1. Raises basic misunderstandings and knowledge gaps

Student questions are information-dense communication points that help an instructor quickly gauge the level of understanding a student has about the topic or project. “The quality of the questions students ask reveals how much they know and how well they learn” (White & Gunstone, 1992).

2. Prompts deeper thinking on a topic

Research shows that asking questions helps students to better retain new information. “Questions activate ‘prior knowledge,’ helping students connect new learnings to what they already know” (Schmidt, 1992).

3. Helps students discover their thinking on a complex topic

When students ask questions they must self-evaluate what they know. “The process of asking questions allows them to articulate their current understanding of a topic… and also to become aware of what they do or do not know” (Chin & Osborne, 2000).

Teaching in an Inquiry-Based Learning Method

  1. Planning
  2. Facilitation
  3. Iteration and Improvement

Other Resources

Tools and Rubrics


How this Class Works: ASU and Beagle Inquiry by Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton
Setting Your Big Goal Question by Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton
Question Productivity Index Rubric by Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton
What is Inquiry Learning? by John Spencer