In the News: What Is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Inquiry-based learning is more than asking a student what he or she wants to know. It’s a teaching method that triggers curiosity. When used properly, it fosters a more engaging, enthusiastic experience for the student—which in turn makes the teaching process easier for the instructor.

It’s quite typical that when an instructor asks a student, “What do you want to know about _______?” they are often met with a shrug, or an “I don’t know.” Inquiry-based learning, if front-loaded well, generates such excitement in students that neurons begin to fire, curiosity is triggered and students can’t wait to become experts in answering their own questions.

The Four Steps of Inquiry-Based Learning

1. Students develop questions they are hungry to answer. Writing tie-in: Have them develop a problem statement that requires them to pitch their question using a constructed response, further inquiry, and citation.

2. Research the topic using time in class. You aren’t going to do the work for them, but you are going to guide them and model methods of researching reliably.

3. Have students present what they’ve learned. Students should create and present a culminating piece in an inquiry learning-based manner so others engage and learn about the topic, too.

4. Ask students to reflect on what worked about the process and what didn’t. Reflection is key. And it isn’t just about asking them to think back on their opinion of the topic. It’s about reflecting on the process itself. That’s where you can work in metacognition. Thinking about thinking. Thinking about how they learned, not just what they learned.

The power of the students’ questions should help drive the research, writing and presentation. It should help motivate them to become experts in their self-described field. The more often a student gets a taste of what it feels like to be an expert, the more they will want to experience that feeling again.

It all starts with finding your own enthusiasm, your own excitement, and your own curiosity. Trigger yours and you’ll be heading towards a classroom built on inquiry.

CuroGens Learning supports an inquiry-based approach. Our solution includes a teacher resource program that trains instructors to improve teaching practices, help students engage and create a student-centered learning environment.

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