INQUIRY BASED LEARNING (IBL):

Inquiry-based learning starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge. The process is often assisted by a facilitator. Inquirers will identify and research issues and questions to develop their knowledge or solutions. Inquiry-based learning includes problem-based learning, and is generally used in small scale investigations and projects, as well as research. The inquiry-based instruction is principally very closely related to the development and practice of thinking skills.  (Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 2016)

 

In IBL, the teacher serves as a facilitator, posing well constructed, open ended questions that spark a student’s interest and natural curiosity to discover answers and methods to solve problems.  The instruction moves from Guided, to Structured and then to Open as students gradually take more responsibility for researching and designing their own strategies for gaining knowledge.  IBL is more about learning how to think, rather than just learning facts.

 

Inquiry-Based Learning, a more active and student-directed approach to instruction, is recognized internationally as a vast improvement on  traditional methods of education where the teacher has all the knowledge, and the students are to listen passively, then later recall the facts on tests. In fact, the TALIS 2013 Investigation surveyed teachers from 34 countries about their beliefs about how students learn best. They found that from 85-95% of teachers from all countries participating in the research study expressed an attitude that pupils learn best when asked to look for a solution to a problem on their own, and  that it is a teacher’s role to facilitate students to learn to think critically and to seek for answers on their own. (TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, 2014)

 

Dr. Bill Hutchins (2010) from the University of Manchester Centre for Excellence in Enquiry-Based Learning, describes the following characteristics and benefits of IBL:

Characteristics of IBL

  • Learning is essentially student-centered, with an emphasis on group work and use of library, web and other information resources.
  • Teachers become facilitators, providing encouragement and support to enable the students to take responsibility for what and how they learn.
  • Students reach a point where they are not simply investigating questions posed by others, but can formulate their own research topics and convert that research into useful knowledge.
  • Students gain not only a deeper understanding of the subject-matter, but also the knowledge-development and leadership skills required for tackling complex problems that occur in the real world.

Benefits of IBL

  • Fundamentally, students are more engaged with the subject. Learning is perceived as being more relevant to their own needs, thus they are enthusiastic and ready to learn.
  • Students can expand on what they have learned by following their own research interests.
  • IBL allows students to develop a more flexible approach to their studies, giving them the freedom and the responsibility to organize their own pattern of work within the time constraints of the task.
  • Working within and communicating to a group are vital for a student’s employability.
  • Self-directed learning not only develops key skills for postgraduate study, but also leads to original thought that contributes to larger research projects, papers and publications.
  • For teaching staff, developing an IBL module helps to understand the learning process and the changing needs of students.

 

“Inquiry” is defined as “a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge — seeking information by questioning.” Individuals carry on the process of inquiry from the time they are born until they die. This is true even though they might not reflect upon the process. Infants begin to make sense of the world by inquiring. From birth, babies observe faces that come near, they grasp objects, they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. The process of inquiring begins with gathering information and data through applying the human senses — seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

 

A Context for Inquiry

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools, students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the expected answers.

Through the process of inquiry, individuals construct much of their understanding of the natural and human-designed worlds. Inquiry implies a “need or want to know” premise. Inquiry is not so much seeking the right answer, but rather seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. For educators, inquiry implies emphasis on the development of inquiry skills and the nurturing of inquiring attitudes or habits of mind that will enable individuals to continue the quest for knowledge throughout life.

An important outcome of inquiry should be useful knowledge about the natural and human-designed worlds. How are these worlds organized? How do they change? How do they interrelate? And how do we communicate about, within, and across these worlds? These broad concepts contain important issues and questions that individuals will face throughout their lives. Also, these concepts can help organize the content of the school curriculum to provide a relevant and cumulative framework for effective learning. Our teachers will collaborate to design CCSS based units of study which will simulate and inspire students to build on their natural curiosity about the world, how things fit together, how things work, and discover new learning by questioning, research and exploration.