Inquiry-based learning is the educational methodology of allowing students to develop solutions and knowledge on a given topic by presenting them with a problem or scenario. This type of learning is very conducive to science instruction, but it can be used effectively in other educational disciplines particularly in the area of the social sciences.
Inquiry-based learning uses constructivist ideas that encourage students to build knowledge by experience. Importance is put on social experience as well, and because of this inquiry-based learning promotes the use of cooperative groups. Piaget, Dewey, Vygotsky, and Freire all influenced the movement of inquiry-based learning that was developed in order to counteract the traditional forms of instruction that were popular in the 1960’s.
There are different approaches to inquiry-based learning. Some of these approaches include problem-based learning, field-work, individual projects, group projects, and research. Students are encouraged to generate their own questions, answer questions by finding evidence, collect evidence, explain the evidence, and then justifying the explanation.
There are four different levels of inquiry-based instruction within the discipline of science. These levels include confirmation inquiry, structured inquiry, guided inquiry, and open inquiry.
Inquiry-based instructional methods have been common in the educational community. It is difficult for classrooms to strictly be inquiry-based because it does not align with high stakes standardized tests, which have become a governmental requirement since the passing of the No Child Left Behind legislation.