Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-Based Learning

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Term2.png Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL)
Inquiry-Based Learning is a pedagogic strategy inspired by constructivist and social-constructivist theories of learning . This student-centered, facilitator-guided approach is based on the process of self-directed inquiry or research . Learners are actively involved in the exploration of the content and issues of a given area of study. Facilitators animate the learning by presenting the problem, providing resources and mainly, asking questions. These questions do not aim to find a single answer, but rather to foster thinking and seeking appropriate resolutions to problems . Supporters of this approach claim that IBL increases student motivation by actively involving them in the construction of their own learning, developing skills (problem solving, critical thinking, analytic, researching, and self-directed learning skills) which are transferable to new problems and concepts.

See also: Constructivism, Social-constructivism, Cooperative Learning, Problem-Based learning, Experiential-learning, Discovery Learning


Toolkit.png Guidelines for creating an IBL course

Guiding Principles

  • Questions asked both by students and the facilitator should be the driving factor in the course
  • The starting point is a general theme to act on;
  • Students’ content knowledge and skills (e.g. research, questioning) are simultaneous targets for development
  • Provide a rich collection of resources (people, library, web, etc.);
  • Train, enable and encourage students to monitor their own progress (journals, drafts, interviews, meeting minutes, rubrics, etc.);
  • The facilitator should be an expert in the subject area and in effective inquiry;
  • Promote constant reflection.

Step by Step

  1. Set your goals and objectives: Define your goals for the entire course and also for each individual lesson. Your goals should focus on what skills and knowledge your students should acquire. In order to design an IBL course, two of your goals should be developing students’ critical and problem solving skills and to have them involved in higher-order thinking skills.
  2. Analyze your students: Determine the prior knowledge your students possess (previously taken courses, academic level) and also the amount of research and inquiry learning experience they have. These two factors will influence the level of your involvement in the course.
  3. Define your role in the learning process: Depending on how new your students are to the inquiry process you will be involved at different intensity in the course. Beginners will need more guidance and structure at the outset of the project and gradually they can start working individually. The table below illustrates the various levels of engagement of the facilitator in the course and how it influences the instructional design process.
  4. Create your instructional plan, activities and assignments: The five models illustrate the facilitator’s involvement in the course which is dependent on the students’ prior knowledge and experience in inquiry processes. Based on your analysis of students choose a path that you would like to follow. Prepare resources for the students (articles, books, websites, art, museum visits, films etc.). Use questions to facilitate and support the learning process.
  5. Design assessments: The assessment process is in strong connection with the course goals and objectives. You can use and combine several ways of assessment. Some examples:
    • Profile: a collection of materials, ratings, grades of student performance and summary of Facilitator-, peer-, and self-assessment sheets.
    • Project work
    • Performance task
    • Use a rubric to inform students about the expectations of the course and to help your grading process.
  6. Evaluation: Evaluation is an element in your course that should be present at each stage of the course. Use several ways of evaluation, do self- assessment and ask your participants to give you feedback on the learning process.[1]

Job Aid

Pdf.png Guidelines for creating an IBL course

Link icon.png Web Resources
Find below additional information and resources.
Link Content
Key components of the inquiry process A step-by-step guide listing 15 key elements of the inquiry process.
Models Different models of IBL with examples and links to case studies.
Handbook of Case Studies Handbook of Case Studies on understanding, designing, tutoring, assessing, supporting, managing, reviewing and researching Enquiry and Problem-based Learning.
Questioning toolkit Different question types with examples, and explanations of their usage in a learning environment.
The Art of Questioning A thought-provoking and inspiring article about the importance of asking the right questions the right way.
Resource library Extensive list of publications in the topic of IBL, organized by subject area.
Rubistar A free online tool for Facilitators to create rubrics.
Evaluation rubric A sample process to evaluate your inquiry course.
IBL rubric A sample facilitator and self-assessment rubric for inquiry based learning.
Inquiry rubric A sample rubric for assessing students in an Inquiry course.


  1. (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011), (27 July 2011),