15.  How do you Assess Inquiry-Based Learning?


Teachers can use the same assessment skills they already have been using, i.e., assessment as, for, and of learning, as well as gathering evidence of learning through the triangulation of conversations, observations, and products (Watt and Colyer, 2014). The Ministry of Education expects teachers to focus their assessment on the students’ achievement of the Overall Expectations (Growing Success, 2010).

Figure 14.1: Triangulation of Assessment Data


SOURCE:  Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, p17.


 Although inquiry may seem, at first, difficult to assess, there are several useful approaches to measure students’ competence in scientific inquiry and academic progress. Whereas traditional paper-and-pencil multiple choice tests are best in assessing content knowledge, popular alternative authentic strategies to assess inquiry include, but are not limited to:


  • Portfolios;
  • Reflection journals;

  • Rubrics;

  • Performance tasks;

  • Structured interviews;

  • Lab books/reports;

  • Concept maps and graphic organizers;

  • Formal and informal observations;

  • Monitoring charts for learning skills and work habits (e.g., responsibility, organization, collaboration, independent work, initiative, self regulation);

  • Peer and self-assessment (focus on assessment as learning);

  • Conferences with students (one-on-one , small group);

  • Student-generated and application questions; 

  • Visual art;

  • Course inquiry questions as final assessment questions; 

  • Capstone projects/culminating tasks (e.g., final inquiries, investigations, research projects, and presentations);

  • Tracking tools (e.g., notebooks, picture/video/audio devices, digital devices –class blog, Google doc, etc.);

  • Questioning skills (Are students demonstrating an inquiry stance? Are they critical thinkers throughout their learning?);

  • Daily exit slips (i.e., post-its, reflections on class blog, online-responses, etc.);  

  • Conversations through Knowledge Building Circles (learning through listening);

  • Effects of descriptive feedback (Are students applying feedback?);

  • Pedagogical documentation through professional discourse. Invite other educators into the learning space (guiding questions: What do we see?  What do we think?  What does this tell us about this particular student’s thinking and learning? What assumptions are we making?  What are our next steps?).

Collaboratively deciding how learning will be tracked empowers students to take ownership and responsibility. Online platform is highly recommended as it fosters on-going discussion and documentation of the learning process.


Rather than a one-time test, it is important that assessment of inquiry skills be on-going, rely on multiple strategies and sources for collecting information that measures the quality of student work, and provides feedback to the students on ways to make improvements. Appropriate authentic inquiry-based assessment tools should test not only the content knowledge, but provide opportunity for students to demonstrate science process skills, scientific reasoning skills, creativity, and metacognitive skills (Llewellyn, 2005). In other words, they are designed to successfully measure what the students know and what they can do specifically related to the inquiry process.





1.  Llewellyn, D. (2005). Teaching High School Science Through Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press


2.  Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.




Reproducible Resources: 




SOURCE:  Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, p138.