What is Inquiry-based Learning?

Inquiry Based Learning Visual Concept Diagram

Inquiry-based Learning Visual Concept Diagram


Inquiry-based learning is rooted in the scientific method of investigating phenomenon in a structured and methodical manner. Related to teaching and learning, it is an information-processing model that allows pupils to discover meaning and relevance to information through a series of steps that lead to a conclusion or reflection on the newly attained knowledge. In most cases, teachers use a "guided inquiry" method to facilitate the learning experience and structure the inquiry around specific goals of instruction. The benefits of inquiry-based learning include the development of critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving.

Principles of Inquiry-based Learning

The main components of inquiry-based learning include:

  • a question(s) related to the topic of inquiry to be explored (problem statement),

  • followed by an investigation and gathering of information related to the question (data collection),

  • continuing with a discussion of findings (analysis),

  • commencing with a reflection on what was learned (implications/conclusion).


  1. The first step in any inquiry is the formulation of a question or set of questions related to the topic of inquiry. The question can be posed by the teacher or by the pupil(s). Sometimes the question is referred to as a hypothesis or a problem statement.

  2. Once a question is posed, pupils are encouraged to investigate the topic by gathering information from sources that either the teacher provides or within learning resources or tools that are readily available to the pupils.

  3. When enough information related to the topic of inquiry is gathered, it is organized in categories or outlined by highlighting the important information relative to the topic. This helps the pupil make connections with new learning and prior learning.

  4. The information is discussed and analyzed for further understanding. The teacher can direct the discussion and highlight the implications that arise from the investigation and show how it relates to the solution of the problem.

  5. Conclusions are made and related back to the original question. Student reflections are encouraged and serve as a way to relate back to the inquiry and retrace the steps that led to the conclusion. This also serves to reinforce the model so that pupils can repeat the process in any problem-solving situation.