2. What is Inquiry-Based Learning?
Inquiry can be defined as a search for knowledge. Inquiry-based learning usually begins when the student’s curiosity and wonder are aroused. That only happens, however, when they have a foundation of knowledge about specific major concepts and ideas in the discipline. In inquiry-based learning, the teacher is supporting the students’ quest for new knowledge and their curiosity about their world by fostering a culture of collaborative learning and risk-taking with their thinking.
Inquiry is a dynamic approach to learning that is ideally directed by student-generated questions, ideas, challenges, and problems, rather than solely those of the teacher. The teacher facilitates this dynamic process by permitting students to investigate their own questions, problems, and challenges by taking complete responsibility for the entire process of obtaining, organizing, interpreting, and communicating their findings while at the same time constructing new knowledge. Emphasis is placed on:
1. Observing/exploring an event/phenomenon
2. Identifying problem(s)
3. Asking relevant questions
4. Designing the investigation and analyzing the variables
5. Conducting the investigation; making and recording observations
6. Analyzing and interpreting the data/evidence
7. Forming conclusions
8. Thinking creatively and critically (evaluating the conclusions and applying the newly acquired
9. Communicating the entire process and the new knowledge
Figure 1.1: The Inquiry Process
SOURCE: Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, p26.
To effectively apply this inquiry process, students should have skills in problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
The five elements of inquiry described by Llewellyn (STAO Conference 2015, Toronto, Ontario, November 12, 2015) are:
1. The learner engages (physically, mentally, and personally) with a science-oriented question.
2. The learner gives priority to evidence when responding to a question.
3. The learner uses evidence to form an explanation.
4. The learner connects an explanation to scientific knowledge.
5. The learner communicates and justifies an explanation.
According to Llewellyn (2011), scientific inquiry investigations can be divided into three major areas: the question, the procedure, and the results. These three areas are further divided into segments that have their own set of thinking skills and performance skills. This is summarized in his “Seven Segments of Scientific Inquiry” (Llewellyn, 2011, p6 - 8).
Figure 1.2: Visualizing Inquiry Concept Map
SOURCE: Stan Kozak and Susan Elliott, Visualizing Inquiry Concept Map. 2014. Connecting the Dots: Key Strategies that Transform Learning for Environmental Education, Citizenship and Sustainability. By Learning for a Sustainable Future. Oshawa, ON: Maracle Press Ltd., 2014.
Retrieved from www.lsf-lst.ca
Figure 1.3: Defining Characteristics of Inquiry-Based Learning at The Laboratory School
SOURCE: Chiarotto, L. (2011). Natural Curiosity: A Resource for Teachers – Building Children’s Understanding of the World Through Environmental Inquiry. Oshawa, ON: Maracle Press Ltd., p8.
Common myths and misconceptions about inquiry-based teaching include:
- Doing hands-on is the same as doing inquiry;
Inquiry is unstructured and chaotic;
Inquiry involves asking a lot of questions; doing scientific inquiry is the same as using the scientific method;
Only high-achieving students can learn through inquiry;
Inquiry is the latest “fad” in teaching science;
You cannot assess inquiry;
Students learn about scientific inquiry from doing inquiry.
(Douglas Llewellyn, STAO Conference 2015, Toronto, Ontario, November 12, 2015)
“The purpose of inquiry is not to instill curiosity in students but to discover it; for curiosity and inquisitiveness already lie within the individual – awaiting opportunities to be revealed and made known.”
D. Llewellyn, Rochester, New York,
Differentiated Science Inquiry, page 131
The following video by Scott Crombie gives an overview of the concepts of inquiry-based learning:
What is Inquiry-Based Learning? May 26, 2014
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u84ZsS6niPc
Additional inquiry-based learning video clips are listed in “#16. Where can further information on inquiry-based learning in science be found?”
1. Chiarotto, L. (2011). Natural Curiosity: A Resource for Teachers – Building Children’s Understanding of the World Through Environmental Inquiry. Oshawa, ON: Maracle Press Ltd.
2. Kozak, S. and Elliot, S. (2014). Connecting the Dots: Key Strategies that Transform Learning for Environmental Education, Citizenship and Sustainability. Oshawa, ON: Maracle Press LTD.
Retrieved from www.lsf-lst.ca
3. Llewellyn, D. (2011). Differentiated Science Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
4. Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.