3. What are the Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning in Science?
Extensive research has led to the conclusion that inquiry-based learning helps to improve student learning across the grades. Some of the major benefits of an inquiry-based classroom includes (adapted from Watt and Colyer, 2014 and Kozak and Elliott, 2014):
- Helps students to develop scientific habits of mind and skills necessary to become independent inquirers that can last a lifetime and guide their learning, creative thinking, and critical problem solving processes;
- Stimulates and nurtures students’ curiosity that progressively leads to higher-level questions; increases student motivation, engagement, interest, and improved understanding by honouring and placing student questions and ideas at the focus of the lesson and their learning;
- Makes learning relevant and meaningful by exploring students’ interests and connecting school learning with students’ own knowledge and experiences;
- Promotes positive attitudes toward science and scientific literacy;
- Emphasizes the investigative processes of science so that students learn science as a process and understand the empirical basis of the scientific evidence they discovered. It encourages what John Dewey many years ago stressed - learning by doing and becoming actively involved in experimenting by asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and technology to gather and analyze data, formulating and revising scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence, communicating and defending scientific arguments;
- Improves student learning when schools adopt a consistent model of inquiry across all grades and subjects (Expert Panel on Literacy in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario, 2004);
- Supports social learning through students and teachers negotiating, sharing ideas, collaborating, and problem-solving together (Jennings and Mills, 2009);
- Provides opportunity for students to develop communicative skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and expression of creativity;
- Supports the development of a community of learners where group knowledge building contributes to individual understanding (Scardamalia, 2002);
- Provides opportunities for the teacher to integrate science, mathematics, technology, and other subjects with process skills and problem-solving strategies.
1. Jennings, L and Mills, J. (2009). Constructing a discourse of inquiry: Findings from a five-year ethnography at one elementary school. Teachers College Record 111 (7), 1583-1618.
2. Expert Panel on Literacy in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario. (2014). Literacy for learning: The report of the expert panel on literacy in grades 4 to 6 in Ontario. Retrieved from http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/report/literacy/panel/literacy.pdf
3. 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
4. Scardamalia, M. (2002), Collective cognitive responsibility for the development of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.). Liberal Education in a Knowledge Society (pp 67-98). Chicago, IL: Open Court.
5. Watt, J. and Colyer, J. (2014). IQ A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.