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What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

Updated on May 7, 2020
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Mr. Bernido is a Master of Arts in Mathematics Education and a licensed professional teacher. He is pursuing PhD MathEd in Bicol University.

Inquiry-based learning promotes independent learning, critical thinking and problem solving skills
Inquiry-based learning promotes independent learning, critical thinking and problem solving skills

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

In the 21st century education, dubbed as Education 4.0, teachers must become creative and innovative in teaching strategies to optimize the learning zone of the learners. There are many pedagogical strategies suggested by experts in the field of education. These include cooperative learning, inquiry-based learning, differentiated instruction, technology-based instruction, flipped classroom strategy, and problem-based instruction. However, in this article we are to talk about inquiry-based learning and its types.

Definition of Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning is an approach in teaching-learning process in which the learning environment is characterized by the student as the active participant while the teacher minimizes direct lecture and instruction (Hotchkiss & Fleron, 2014). The most salient characteristics of an inquiry-based learning environment are problem solving, learner-centered activities, built sequence of activities that guide rediscovery, and teacher as a facilitator instead of sole knowledge provider. In an inquiry-based classroom, a teacher starts the class by throwing thought provoking questions or queries about the topic to learners. Problems or scenarios related to the topic and which make learners think can be used as a motivation. This approach is primarily designed to develop learners’ skills in critical thinking and problem solving.

Types of Inquiry-Based Learning

Knowing the different types of inquiry is very important to help teachers identify which among these types are fit to the learners. Having knowledge on the different types of inquiry also prepares a teacher to design the appropriate learning materials for the learners.

Banchi and Bell (2008) have identified four types of inquiry that can be used in instruction. These are confirmation inquiry, structured inquiry, guided inquiry, and open inquiry.

Confirmation Inquiry

In a confirmation inquiry, students are provided with the question and procedure, and the results are known in advance. This is useful in the reinforcement of a previously introduced idea, and to introduce students to the experience of conducting investigations, or to have students practice a specific inquiry skill. In mathematics, this type of inquiry can be used if a teacher wanted to reinforce the skills of learners in algorithms such as using the quadratic formula, formulae for finding areas of triangles, circles, or trapezoid, or any mathematical concepts that need computations. Checking whether the given result for a problem is correct using the given procedure or process is the goal of confirmation inquiry.

Structured Inquiry

In the second level of inquiry, question and procedure are still provided by the teacher however students are the ones to generate results or explanations with supporting evidences or proofs. In this type of inquiry, the learners are given opportunity to find the answer for a certain problem using a given procedure.

Guided Inquiry

In guided inquiry, the teacher provides students with research or guide questions only then students must design the procedure to arrive at certain results or explanations with proofs. This type of inquiry is good for mathematical lessons which require proofs such as proving trigonometric identities and proving theorems in geometry.

Open Inquiry

At open inquiry, students develop their own research questions and must derive, design and carry out procedure, and consequently communicate results on their own. This is best used in a learner-driven research work such mathematical investigation where learners are free to discover new ideas and concepts.

Effects of Inquiry-Based Learning in Learners’ Academic Performance
(Inquiry-Based Learning, alternative to traditional teaching)

Many studies have shown that use of inquiry-based approach in the learning environment improves student learning. Aulia et al. (2018) integrated this approach in the developed learning materials used in the study, and results confirmed that it is effective in teaching and learning in order to improve students’ science literacy skills proven by the increase in N-gain score with medium and high category both on science literacy skills in aspect of context, competence, knowledge, and attitude. This supports previous claims of several authors including Duran and Dokme (2016) who highlighted that integration of inquiry approach in activities in science and technology has significant effect on students’ critical thinking skills development. Similar pedagogical approach is also used to increase students’ academic achievement in science lessons in the study of Abdi (2014) where the findings showed that there is significant difference in the mean gain achievement scores of the learners in the control and experimental groups. Koksal and Berberoglu (2012) also claimed that such approach results to positive effect on students’ cognitive and affective characteristics as reflected in the enhanced understanding of science concepts as well as the inquiry skills by the experimental group more than those of the control group. Wang et al. (2013) stressed that inquiry-based learning helps students significantly improve the cognitive ability of the students with respect to self-efficacy and performance goal dimensions related to motivation to study science.
With the foregoing literature and studies, it is implied that inquiry-based learning is really helpful in increasing learner’s academic performance. This pedagogical strategy can be used in sciences, technology, mathematics, engineering, or language.


While there are other pedagogical strategies which provide learners the opportunity to learn, inquiry-based learning is a best option. It makes learners think and creative in finding solutions in a given problem; thus helping them practice problem solving and critical thinking skills. For struggling learners in an inquiry classroom, the first two types can be used: confirmation and structured inquiry. Average learners can be given guided inquiry-based activities while advanced learners can be provided with open inquiry lessons.

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© 2020 Ryan Bernido


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    • FoodforThoughtPH profile imageAUTHOR

      Ryan Bernido 

      3 weeks ago

      Thanks po sir Jimmy.

    • Jimmy Bio Jr profile image

      Jimmy Bio Jr 

      3 weeks ago from Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines

      Wow. Very informative.


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