Everyone’s Talking About Inquiry-Based Learning

If you work within a school-based setting, chances are you hear the chatter about inquiry-based learning. As a hot topic in education, let’s get to the bottom of what all the buzz is about!

What is inquiry-based learning?

To sum it up, inquiry-based learning is an approach where students participate in their own learning based on curiosity, hands-on experiences and self-reflections.

The 5E Model of inquiry-based learning breakdowns the approach into five different phases:

  • Engage – Teachers first introduce a new topic to students. The key here is to set the stage so that the students’ interest is held right out of the gate, leading to higher levels of student engagement.
  • Explore – In the second phase, students participate in observation and hands-on learning to satisfy their curiosity about the topic.
  • Explain – This third phase is where teachers will step in for additional support, conversation and clarity to make sure students understand the lesson.
  • Elaborate – In phase four, students will then take what they’ve learned and make more sense of it on a deeper level.
  • Evaluate – In phase five, students can self-reflect and recognize the new knowledge they’ve learned from the exercise.

Ultimately, the 5E inquiry-based model supports cognitive learning and collaborative thinking, while allowing students to learn through their own participation.

The secret to high engagement levels in the classroom

Teachers are known to sing praises about inquiry-based learning because it can lead to spikes in student engagement in the classroom.

When students, or people in general, are genuinely curious about something – whether it is a science experiment, an activity, or even gossip – the logical end goal for them is to find out more. Curiosity prompts a craving to inquire and investigate in order to receive answers.

Think of this like the popular ‘90s movie, Harriet The Spy. Harriet spent all her time asking questions, taking notes, investigating (or spying in this case), and then drawing her own conclusions based on what she found. She probably would have gotten in less trouble if she just told her family and friends that she was following an inquiry-based learning approach versus dubbing herself a spy, right?  

It goes without saying, but anytime you try to implement a new way of learning into your classroom, challenges may arise.

For starters, inquiry-based learning requires additional planning on a teacher’s part. Since teacher’s are transferring some of the responsibility over to their students, potential distractions throughout the lesson should always be accounted for.

Once the details of inquiry-based learning are perfected though, this method is designed to help students engage in exploration, while discovering new ways to think outside of the box to satisfy their own curiosity cravings.

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