What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Consist of?

30 October, 2020
Today we're going to talk about an interesting approach to learning, called inquiry-based learning. It aims to promote an active attitude in students through inquiry as a form of learning.

For a student to learn, it isn’t enough for him or her to memorize concepts. It’s also necessary that they awaken their interest in a problem and motivate themselves to seek solutions and answers. Within the framework of an inquiry-based learning approach, a sense of wonder and the discovery of ideas are the trigger for exploration, analysis and reflection on knowledge.

Curiosity and research, the basis of inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning is a teaching-learning approach through which the teacher helps students find solutions to educational problems. Thus, the objective of inquiry-based learning is to motivate students to participate, actively and collaboratively, in a process of investigation.

In this process, they have to ask themselves questions and initiate an active path of observation, information collection and analysis, and bibliographic and empirical search. The objective here is to interpret data and reach conclusions based on different hypotheses and assumptions related to an initial problem.

What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Consist of?

It’s interesting to see the conclusions of the study entitled Inquiry-Based Learning: An Innovative Strategy for Learning Research Processes. It states that learning based on research helps students establish relationships between the theoretical and the empirical in a simpler way. It also helps them to recognize the theory that supports practical knowledge.

Therefore, the pillars of inquiry-based learning are constant curiosity and a co-research carried out between the teacher-student and student-student relationships.

And, as Patricia Escalante Arauz indicates in an article, inquiry-based learning is “a process that takes place in an atmosphere of physical, intellectual and social learning.”

Main advantages of inquiry-based learning

  • Motivates and awakens interest and curiosity for knowledge
  • Encourages and develops cooperative and collaborative learning and co-research
  • Promotes systematic thinking
  • Sharpens observation and memory
  • Promotes the active participation of students in the acquisition of knowledge
  • Develops critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Stimulates creativity to justify, argue and refute concepts and ideas
  • Encourages the use of technological resources that help to visualize, collect, analyze, and store information and knowledge

Importance of essential questions in inquiry

We need to emphasize that, in order for inquiry-based learning to be truly meaningful, the role of the teacher is fundamental. One of the most important aspects here is how the educator poses the initial problem that the students will have to inquire into.

In this sense, in order for research to be effective, it must begin with essential questions and not simple ones. Why? Because, as Patricia Escalante Arauz also states, these are “an open window to understanding.”

The author argues that it isn’t the same to ask a simple question based on a fact, such as: “What is Renaissance Art?as it is to ask an essential question, such as: “How does art reflect culture or change it?”

Certainly, substantial questions like these don’t have a single answer. Because of that, it will prompt and stimulate inquiry and research in order to reach an answer. It’s the same process of inquiry that leads students to participate, dialogue, debate, and integrate disciplines or subjects to find solutions.

What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Consist of?

Inquiry-based learning and the role of technology

Incorporating technology can significantly aid the development of inquiry-based learning. Internet, infinite web sites, applications, and different types of platforms will allow the process of investigation to be much more extensive, complex, and exhaustive.

Thanks to technology, students have access to infinite amounts of content and information. In addition to this, they can also access different types of visualization, organization and storage of information. And, not only that, this technology allows them to work remotely, as well as collaboratively.

Therefore, inquiry-based learning, when used hand in hand with technological resources such as those we have today, is very effective and powerful. Technology opens up an infinite universe of possibilities for students to explore and discover knowledge.

As mentioned at the start of the article, inquiry is a state of mind characterized by curiosity and investigation. To inquire is to seek truth, information or knowledge. Therefore, this type of learning will never be a passive learning. It will, in fact, be a learning method based on an active process that both the student and the teacher participate in.

In this way, learning starts to truly make sense, and several pieces of research back this up. This is the essence of inquiry-based learning: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand.