Student Learning · Teaching Strategies

Inquiry Based Learning

“Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand” (Chinese Proverb)

The traditional educational system encourages students to memorise facts and information and to listen and repeat the expected answers. Inquiry based learning is relevant to the students of the 21st century as it provides students with the skills to understand and make sense of the mass of data that surrounds us in the world of today.

Inquiry based learning is about seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. As teachers, we need to foster this kind of attitude in the classroom in order for the students to use this attitude outside the classroom throughout their lives.

Inquiry based learning is based on questions. Lessons should begin with questions about the unknown – question who, what, when, where, why and how.

After the questioning, students can then find and understand answers.

This approach allows students to think critically and make judgements and conclusions. These are both cognitive and affective skills. Cognitive skills pertain to perceiving, learning and knowing, while affective skills pertain to forming and determining attitudes and values.   

When using an inquiry based learning approach, the chosen skills need to be taught in connection to the content. It involves careful planning and should be built into the program. The skills need to be practised and reinforced throughout the unit of work.

This approach may be described as the students finding out information and the teacher resourcing the students.

Main purpose of inquiry based learning:

  • Enhance the thinking process
  • Encourage creative, parallel and lateral thinking
  • Improve communication
  • Speed up decision making
  • Avoid debate

Inquiry Strategies:

  • Picture books
  • Poetry, film and media sources
  • Polling and surveying
  • Artefact analysis and source studies
  • Site studies (virtual and physical)
  • What if mandalas
  • Value charts
  • Venn diagrams
  • KWL charts
  • Problem based learning tasks
  • Questioning
  • Mind mapping and consequence charts
  • Role play
  • Simulation games and moral dilemmas
  • Cooperative learning tasks (jigsaw groups)
  • Blogging
  • Photo essays
  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Webquests

Do you use an inquiry based learning approach in your classroom?

What are you doing to foster critical thinking in your students?


David Castillo Dominici /

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