Inquiry-Based Learning

Aug 6, 2015 11:00:00 AM Jessica Beidelman Teaching and Learning

This is the first installment of a series highlighting top innovations in teaching methodologies.

Innovative schools are implementing a wide range of curricula in order to complement the classroom technology and school infrastructure that promote student academic achievement. Innovative teaching methodologies rely upon quality teaching and pedagogy in order to lead to improved student outcomes.

Inquiry-Based Learning

An inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning can increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and research-based disposition towards teaching and learning. Inquiry strives to nurture deep, discipline-based ways of thinking and doing with students. Inquiry learning is a student-centered approach that allows students to have more control over their process of knowledge getting. It arouses students‘ curiosities and motivates students to continue to seek until they find answers (Slavin, 2006).

The many advantages of mobile devices make them particularly apt for supporting student-centered learning. Prior studies have documented how mobile devices can facilitate experimentation in real-world settings, help students collect and record information and allow learners to share their experiences and information with peers.



Impact on Student Learning: 

Using inquiry-based curriculum in the middle school classroom has an impact on student academic achievement. A study presented at the Western AAAE Research Conference showed that constructivism, as compared with traditionalism, appeared to be more effective in increasing student academic achievement within a unit of instruction. Students experienced more growth in the unit taught with constructivist methods as compared to that taught with traditionalist methods.

  • Student-centered or “active” forms of instruction have been shown to improve student learning and affective outcomes in the sciences and in other fields (Ambrose et al., 2010; Froyd, 2008). Inquiry-based learning develops independent problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in students.
  • Inquiry learning has a variety of benefits for students and teachers. With inquiry learning, students engage in learning by drawing upon their prior knowledge and experiences. It uses the student‘s prior knowledge as a building block to integrate new understandings with prior learning (Lemlech, 1998).
  • Learning has more meaning for students as it becomes a more relevant part of their lives and they begin to better understand the world around them. Ward (2001) praises inquiry learning when he stated that “by building on previously constructed knowledge, students can better grasp the concepts and can move from simply knowing the material to understanding it”.
  • Herman & Knobloch (2004) found that the constructivist approach generated increases in affective and cognitive outcomes.

Examples of Use: 

  • Inquiry-based learning encourages students to ask questions, supported by the use of technology in the classroom. There are a number of apps that support the pursuit of inquiry-based learning in the classroom, including: Flickr, Evernote, Skype, Explain Everything, Weebly, Discovr and Google.
  • Science Leadership Academy (SLA) is an inquiry-driven, STEM-focused, project-based school formed as a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. SLA is an inquiry-driven high school focused on 21st century learning and is a 1:1 project-based laptop school where all students and teachers use laptops as their primary learning tool. Students complete benchmark projects every quarter to demonstrate the application of their learning, and the majority of school work is done on the computers through the school's Canvas course-management system.


  • Estimates regarding the cost of inquiry-based learning vary significantly, depending upon the implementation plan. Inquiry-based learning can be implemented at a low-cost, focusing on the style of presenting problems and learning, or inquiry-based learning can come at a much higher cost with the design and implementation of learning labs.

To learn more about Inquiry-Based Learning, you can read: 

Stay tuned for our next post about Adaptive Learning.