What is it?

Inquiry-based learning is an instructional approach that enables students to learn through first-hand applied experimentation. This entails providing experience in observation, data information collection, as well as analytical and problem-solving skills. For inquiry-based learning to be effective, students need to understand how and why they are investigating a problem or scenario.

According to Banchi, H. and Bell, R. (2008) from their article “The Many Levels of Inquiry”, there are four forms of complexity to Inquiry-based learning: 1) Confirmation – wherein the instructor creates questions or activities which have a predetermined solution. The intention is to help students learn how to follow procedures, collect information, and confirm results; 2) Structured – wherein the instructor provides students with the question and the method or procedure. However, students must develop their own conclusions through reviewing the information they have collected and analyzed; 3) Guided – wherein students are only given the research question and required to develop a procedure or method to evaluate the question and come to a conclusion or explanation. This type of inquiry is effective when students have been given the opportunity to learn and practice various ways to plan and evaluate a question or problem; 4) Open/True – wherein the students create the question, develop the procedures to assess the question and then present their results.

Purpose: By establishing the overall purpose of an inquiry, students can better comprehend and see the link from theory to practice.

Note: Instructors should use the level of Inquiry-based learning that best fits their student population.

Skills Promoted

  • Collaborative learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Inquiry Learning
  • Peer instruction
  • Problem solving

Who's using it?

SALTISE community members who use this strategy and are willing to share advice and/or resources.

Institution Discipline Instructor Classroom settings

McGill University

Level: University

Biology – Neurogenetics

Joe Dent

Laboratory with necessary equipment
Activity: Experimental Design in Neurobiology

Classroom size: Varies

View resources used

Vanier College

Level: College

Physics – Mechanics

Kevin Lenton

Requires access to a vehicle and an empty stretch of parking lot
Activity: Mass of A Car

Classroom size: 30-40

View resources used

Concordia University

Level: University

Applied Human Sciences

Caroline Samne

Group problem solving; creating and asking relevant questions
Activity: Action-Learning Sets

Classroom size: N/S

View resources used

Institution

McGill University

Level: University

Vanier College

Level: College

Concordia University

Level: University

Discipline

Biology – Neurogenetics

Physics – Mechanics

Applied Human Sciences

Instructor

Joe Dent

Kevin Lenton

Caroline Samne

Classroom settings

Laboratory with necessary equipment
Activity: Experimental Design in Neurobiology

Classroom size: Varies

View resources used

Requires access to a vehicle and an empty stretch of parking lot
Activity: Mass of A Car

Classroom size: 30-40

View resources used

Group problem solving; creating and asking relevant questions
Activity: Action-Learning Sets

Classroom size: N/S

View resources used

Why use it?

Benefits
Challenges
Benefits

Using inquiry-based learning helps students improve their critical thinking skills by critiquing the experimental designs of their peers. In a laboratory setting, students also learn how to write scientifically, and gain a hands-on understanding of the scientific method through designing and conducting experiments.

Challenges

Students can be hesitant to critique each other, therefore, it needs to be clear that critiques are meant to help students improve their experiments and there are no negative consequences to defects in experimental design during peer review.

Helpful resources

References

Banchi, H. and Bell, R. (2008). The Many Levels of Inquiry. Science and Children, 46(2), 26-29.

Edelson, D. C., Gordin, D. N. and Pea, R. D. (1999). Addressing the challenges of inquiry-based learning through technology and curriculum design.. Journal of the Learning Sciences.

Gormally, C., Brickman, P., Hallar, B. and Armstrong, N. (2009). Effects of inquiry-based learning on students’ science literacy skills and confidence.. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Pedaste, M., Mäeots, M., Siiman, L. A., De Jong, T., Van Riesen, S. A., Kamp, E. T., Manoli, C. C., Zacharia, Z. C. and Tsourlidaki, E. (2015). Phases of inquiry-based learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle.. Educational Research Review.

Brew, A. (2003). Teaching and research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry-based teaching and learning in higher education.. Higher Education Research & Development.

. Inquiry-Based Learning.

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