The definition of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) is a focus on using children’s natural curiosity and questions to teach them new skills and concepts. (Gholam 2019).
Studies have shown that when we work with a child’s natural way of learning and not against it, we maximize their learning potential. IBL starts by asking students a question and then giving them the freedom to explore and develop strategies to answer the question.
When it comes to teaching our children parents and teachers want the same thing:
Why It Works
- To reinforce the love of being inquisitive and ready to learn
- To retain what they’ve learned
- To take the initiative for their learning and education
- To gain confidence and apply what they’ve learned
Inquiry-based learning is very effective in stimulating a child’s critical thinking skills because this process of learning teaches collaboration, differentiation, reflection, and problem-solving. It can be extremely motivating for many students.
Since our brains are wired differently, some children will struggle to think creatively or to remain curious during the process.
As teachers and parents recognize their students’ preferred learning style, they can adjust Inquiry-based learning by allowing the child to present their findings through written, verbal, role-playing, or art.
How to Get Started
Inquiry-based learning works under the premise that children want to explore. Applying this teaching style becomes so much easier once you understand and leverage your students’ interests.
In the classroom, start with student-led experiments. Ask a question about math or science. Then give students the chance to discuss potential solutions or answers to the question. Once they have collaborated and decided on an answer, they can then begin with some hands-on experimenting to see if the answer they come up with is a correct assumption.
If it isn’t they start over exploring, researching, and collaborating. Then more hands-on experimenting until they arrive at the correct answer. Your responsibility as the teacher, is to guide and make suggestions when needed so that your students don’t become frustrated and want to quit.
IBL is especially effective in diverse classrooms with varying learning styles and needs.
At home, a parent could ask their child about growing plants. What do plants need to grow? Allow your child to explore all the possibilities and conduct research to determine the answer. Then encourage them to plant and care for a small garden based on what they have learned.
Inquiry-based learning is effective when the teacher or parent follows this pattern:
- Ask questions
- Model patterns of thinking
- Teach problem-solving strategies
- Reinforce collaboration, reflection, and differentiation
- Help the child transfer learned knowledge and skills to new situations
When we give children more control over how they learn, we also give them more confidence so they can build upon their successes and have a desire to become engaged and motivated lifelong learners.