Inquiry Based Learning Guide

This article guide you to learn about inquiry-based Learning and its benefits.

Inquiry Based Learning Guide

Inquiry-based learning  What is it? What are its benefits?

Learning is an essential element of human evolution. It has been a pillar of all the development we see in daily life. Inquiry is the process of finding out by searching for knowledge and understanding. Inquiry involves identifying problems, posing questions, and seeking answers. One such way of learning is Inquiry-based learning and it is one of the most effective ways to learn. 

What is inquiry-based learning?

 Inquiry-based learning is a learning method in which the teacher shares questions, challenges, or problems with students and leaves them to students to answer for themselves instead of paving the path to answer. Inquiry-based learning approach promotes the exploration of ideas, experimentation, and critical thinking. Inquiry-based learning is entirely focused on students and how they want to do their learning and find answers.

It is a constructivist approach in which students have ownership of their learning. It starts with exploration and questioning which leads to an investigation into worthy questions, issues, problems, or ideas. The teacher’s role in inquiry-based learning is to pose students with the right questions. learners have to find answers for themselves. Teachers will be present as facilitators for guidance.

Inquiry-based learning involves asking questions, gathering and analyzing information, gathering solutions, making decisions, justifying conclusions, and taking action. The Inquiry-based learning approach is considered to be successful only when the question posed by teachers allows students to ask more questions, as more questions will lead to answers with more learning. It develops critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and lifelong learning in students. This approach is used in the science classroom as it is based on the scientific method. It includes hands-on activities as it is based on learning by doing principles.

Inquiry-based learning has a 5E model which is: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate which helps in improving the education system. 

Engage: When students are engaged with the initial question posed by the teacher then prior knowledge that the students already have gets activated which will result in posing more questions.

Explore: Once the student’s prior knowledge gets activated they explore and once the students explore, their prior knowledge gets challenged which results in new ideas.

Explain: Since the new ideas are created students will now explain the idea to themselves.

Elaborate: Once students have got the ideas on which they have evaluated and researched students elaborate on the new knowledge they gained.

Evaluate: The bulk of knowledge students have got they evaluate and the chunk of knowledge they have gained can not be used so in this last step students take out relevant data or if they have a hypothesis they further test it for results.

Types of Inquiry-based learning

Direct inquiry – In this students follow the teacher’s direct instructions to complete an activity and reach the solution.

Guided inquiry – In this students develop the procedure to investigate the teacher’s selected question. Students themself decide their plan, their layout, and their procedure.

Open inquiry –  In this students generate questions about the teacher-selected topic and design their investigation and reach the result. As it is an open-ended inquiry there is no boundation of resources.

Characteristics or components of the inquiry approach

1. Prior knowledge is ascertained/ activated whenever you inquire, ask questions or find new things 

2. When students ask essential questions and when the concept gets cleared and students reach the answer significant concepts develop in the mind.

3. As it is a student-centric approach students are actively involved in understanding and constructing knowledge by themself based on inquiry.

4. Learning takes place in a social context as students get to learn from society, peer groups, friends, and family.

5. Assessment is ongoing as students get to the answers to the questions and reach towards the solution and if they don’t get to the answers to the questions then they look for more questions to reach towards the solution.

6. Learning leads to action as it is based on learning by doing principles and after action or activities are done then only students conclude.

7. Students get to find gaps between results and expected outcomes in this learning.

Phases of inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning has four phases that work in collaboration and are dependent on each other and it is mandatory to reach from one phase to another because then only learning is achieved. The four phases are Interacting, Clarifying, Questioning, and Designing.

1. Interacting- Dive into engaging, relevant, and credible media forms to identify a ‘need’ or opportunity for inquiry. As students engage and conduct the activity, interaction happens and problems are found, and the inquiry phase is reached.

2. Clarifying- Summarizing, paraphrasing, and categorizing learning with the teacher or expert support. Students clear the concept as content is in concise form as compared to the interacting phase and content is categorized in different categories.

3. Questioning– Asking questions to drive continued. It is a self-directed inquiry as students try to solve by framing questions.

4. Designing- In this student design an accessible, relevant, and curiosity-driven action or product to culminate and justify inquiry. 

Role of learners and requirements of inquiry-based learning

  • With the teacher’s guidance students can attain inquiry-based learning in below mentioned ways:
  • Students are engaged by asking scientifically oriented questions and should be logical. Students should develop authentic questions.
  • Students should give priority to experiences in responding to these questions. Teachers should also engage and discuss with students what are their daily life activities which can be done through inquiry-based learning and those topics should be selected in which students have experience.
  • Students should formulate explanations based on the data and evidence they have collected.
  • Students evaluate their explanations in the light of alternatives.
  • Students should communicate their problem with the result and their solution and justify their explanation.
  • Students should act upon their curiosity and interests.
  • Students should think their way through controversies or dilemmas to find answers.
  •  Students should look at the problems in all aspects analytically and then conclude if they want inquiry-based learning.
  • Students should inquire into their preconceptions and what they already know.
  • Students should develop, clarify, and test hypotheses.
  • Students should draw inferences and generate possible solutions.


  • It enhances the intellectual capacity of the learner as after detailed thinking only the learner gets to the solution of the problem. Development of high-order thinking is seen in learners.
  • It develops critical thinking in learners and keeps them motivated for intrinsic learning.
  • It makes students independent thinkers which provide them with flexibility.
  • It makes content easier to comprehend as the learner has read a lot and has lots of data.
  • It develops the ability for experimentation in students as it follows learning by doing principle.
  • The learner understands the concepts more clearly and retains them for longer.
  • Inquiry-based learning creates new knowledge.
  • It minimizes verbal learning.


Inquiry-based learning is a great way of learning as the knowledge gained in finding that answer in this way is stored in long time memory which enhances the richness of knowledge the person beholds. But still, it has limitations which are the following:

Training of teachers-  Trained teachers who can apply this method is readily available. Teachers are also unaware of how they can apply this teaching method and few teachers don’t want to use this method so proper training should be provided to teachers so that an inquiry-based learning approach can be applied to the class.

Not suitable for large classrooms/ groups- It can not be applied to a large group of learners as it will take a lot of time to cover a topic. Hence it is effective for small groups/ classrooms.

Textbooks do not support inquiry- Textbooks are not made that way so that they can support inquiry neither all topics can be explained by inquiry. Textbooks also do not support inquiry as syllabus completion is not possible with the inquiry method.

Requires plenty of resources- With inquiry-based learning, many resources are generally not available at all places and hence are not fully applied to classrooms.

Time-consuming- To gain new information and research proper time is needed and this method is resource taking and time taking hence it becomes difficult to apply in classrooms.

Syllabus completion not possible- As inquiry-learning is time taking process and textbooks are not made in a such way thus syllabus completion is not possible.


 Inquiry-based learning is the most effective way of learning as compared to the traditional learning method as the concepts develop in mind by this learning method are significant and stay with learners for a long duration hence it should be applied in classrooms more often. Traditional learning methods should have more project-based content and inquiry-based content.

As teachers are also unaware of how they can apply inquiry-based learning to the classroom, proper training should be provided to teachers all around the world. Teachers should be present as facilitators for guidance and support instead of answering questions for them so that learners can become independent thinkers and learner understands the concepts more clearly and retains the knowledge for longer hence learner can grow and develop in a better way.