Inquiry Based Learning

This past week the new semester has started. One course is inquiry based learning.  This is a course that has interested me since I saw it was required.  I was wondering how this differs from project based learning and other teaching methods that I have used.  I was excited to dive into the material this week answering: What is inquiry based learning?

According to Wikipedia(n.d), inquiry based learning is started by “posing questions, problems, or scenarios”.  The teacher is a facilitator, guide and is constantly adjusting based on the students.  It is a student center classroom where students are discovering their own learning.  So what does this look like in the classroom? How does this method work?

I have noticed that inquiry based classrooms can take on a variety of different looks, but the basis is that students are answering questions and fostering their own learning.  This learning can be incredibly guided by the teacher or open-ended where students are doing everything (Mishra, 2018).  The goal is to have it be student-centered learning. 

According to the Urban Academy (n.d), students in inquiry based classrooms are challenged to examine conflicting evidence, draw conclusions and support these conclusions.  In AP Computer Science Principles, this comes up often when talking about the digital divide, artificial intelligence, big data, and more.   I see the Harkness method as a form of Inquiry-Based Learning for both English and History Classes.  I also see the project-based and independent research project as also a form of inquiry based learning. 

My thoughts about inquiry-based learning are still developing, but I feel this is not new.  I also think this is the main way that I teach.  I believe that the students should be developing questions and answering these questions.  I feel I constantly guide my students to find answers, they tell me they hate that I always answer their questions with questions.  I am beginning to wonder if the teaching methods I use with PBL, open discussions, and structured discovery activities all fall under Inquiry-Based learning.

I am also still figuring out what is not Inquiry-Based learning other than lectures.  A statement in our reading was not all “hands-on activities are inquiry-based”.  This struck me as interesting, as I am now trying to think of what hands-on activity I have done in the past that is not inquiry-based.  I want to reflect on my classroom and try to assure that my activities are driving the inquiry in the classroom.  

I have many questions I hope to get answered:

  • How do you ensure all students are engaged in the classroom?
  • How to introduce this to students when they are used to an inquiry based class?
  • How do you explain to parents that sometimes the students will grapple with learning?
  • How to continually assess students’ knowledge and understanding?
  • How to support students to build higher-level thinking that is needed for the open-ended learning? 


Inquiry based learning. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved January 14, 2022, from

Mishra, I. (2018, May 7). How to facilitate inquiry-based learning through your online course? WizIq.
Urban Academy High School. (n.d.). Inquiry-Based Teaching.

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