What Is Inquiry Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning is a problem-solving process used when working through complex problems. To solve these problems one must think critically using the inquiry process. The inquiry-based learning process is not just limited to science. It applies to all manner of problem solving. It is a collaborative approach that is participative in nature. Inquiry leads to the creation of new knowledge. The problem-solving process doesn’t end with the conclusion of a single inquiry. Instead inquiry-based learning is a lifelong learning and problem solving process.

The inquiry process begins with being aware of your surroundings and questioning things that demand attention or require a solution. Observation, questioning and curiosity kick off the process. The process, by its very nature, can be initially very broad. It is important to narrow your focus in such a way to undertake something that is manageable. This will typically result in a lot of questions. Questioning is at the heart of inquiry. It is important that questions be investigatable. The process of creating comparable questions brings inquiry to life. Once a question that is comparable in nature has been reached, participants then make a prediction – What do you think will happen? With the scope of the study narrowed, the next part of the process is to initiate an action plan or course of action. This course of action involves collecting data and conducting a study. After completing the action plan, participants must think about what their data means and generate more questions. Finally, communicating findings to others ties the entire process together. In order to solve society’s big problems, new knowledge must be shared. It is the sharing of data that allows the process of inquiry to be ongoing.

Why Is Inquiry Based Learning Important?

Inquiry-based learning is not a new concept, so why is inquiry so important now? As change is rapidly occurring and technology is exploding, the world’s population is growing and new problems are emerging at a faster rate than at any other time in history. Global warming, world hunger, increased life span, loss of virgin landscape, a shift in land use, a rise in carbon dioxide levels, and rainforest depletion are just a few of today’s concerns. As we shift to a global community, today’s problems transcend national borders. To solve these problems future generations need to think more critically than today’s generation using a proven problem-solving process, the process of inquiry.

Inquiry can and should be incorporated into all education training programs including schools, zoos, parks, museums, and the business community. Inquiry-based learning is a process that compliments traditional learning and leads to better outcomes. At the Inquiry Based Learning Institute we develop the skills necessary for solving complex problems.  The Inquiry Based Learning Institute is here to partner with your organization to make inquiry a reality in all learning environments.