An old adage states: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” This is the essence of inquiry-based learning. In this form of teaching it implies that student involvement deepens understanding. Furthermore, involvement in learning teaches students to possess new skills and attitudes that allow you to seek resolutions to questions and issues while you construct new knowledge amongst students.
What is Inquiry Based Learning (IBL)?
IBL is not so much seeking the right answer, but rather seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues that arise. This approach is more focused on using and learning content as a means to develop how students process information and problem-solving skills. Honing in on the student, and using the teacher as a as a facilitator of learning, there is more emphasis on “how we come to know” and less on “what we know.”
The model suggests that if students are more involved and are active participants in the classroom, they become more interested and engaged in subject material – and the more engaged students are with material the easier it will be for them to construct questions and show their knowledge of the topic. Because teachers are seen as classroom facilitators in this type of model, and are there to help guide the discussion, it will be up to the individual to decide how much guidance they want to provide. Regardless of the amount of assistance that teachers provide, the fundamental goal of inquiry is student engagement during the learning process.
How do you adopt this model in your classroom? The six steps outline the basics below.
Six Stages of the Inquiry Cycle
- Inquiry – stating a “what if” or “I wonder” question to be investigated by the class
- Investigation – assign your students to different groups where they can brainstorm possible solutions
- Creation – identifying an “I think” statement as an hypothesis
- Discussion – talking about the hypothesis, all probable conclusions/facts
- Reflection – collecting evidence, drawing conclusions, sharing and communicating results
- Exhibition – sharing and communicating results
Benefits to IBL
- It’s beneficial to ESL/ELL students. Through the hands-on teaching, students are more likely to relate themselves through their own experiences, which is why it is more effective for them than the traditional way of teaching
- For students who have short attention spans, through the development of investigations, it would be interesting for a student who does not have the attention span to sit and read books for hours
- Students develop their critical thinking skills as the classroom discussions help them gain insights into topics
- When students take part in complex and meaningful projects they are preparing for engagement and collaboration that gives them transferable skills to the workplace
Shortcomings to IBL
- The process of IBL can be particularly difficult for struggling students as they may be working from a limited pre-knowledge base. They won’t be able to ask thought-provoking questions and have a lack of self-discipline for this independent
- Because teachers adopt the role of classroom facilitator, it suggests that students may stray from the task at hand
While IBL is an effective method that can be used in a variety of situations, it isn’t a method that applicable to everything. However IBL will help engage students and foster excitement in the subjects they are learning about