10 Reasons To Use Inquiry-Based Learning In Your Classroom

by TeachThought Staff

We’ve talked about how and when to use inquiry-based learning–and apps for inquiry-based learning, too.

What we haven’t done–explicitly anyway–is looked at the reasons for doing so. While the benefits might seem obvious (student-centeredness, critical thinking, self-directed learning, etc.), the graphic above by famed sketch-noter Sylvia Duckworth based on a session by Trevor Mackenzie captures a lot of these ideas in a single visual.

How Is Inquiry-Based Learning Different? 

In 4 Phases of Inquiry-Based Learning: A Guide For Teachers, we took a look at the characteristics of inquiry-based learning.

  1. Learning focuses around a meaningful, ill-structured problem that demands consideration of diverse perspectives
  2. Academic content-learning occurs as a natural part of the process as students work towards finding solutions
  3. Learners, working collaboratively, assume an active role in the learning process
  4. Teachers provide learners with learning supports and rich multiple media sources of information to assist students in successfully finding solutions
  5. Learners share and defend solutions publicly in some manner

Much like project-based learning, inquiry-based learning can look and feel and sound much different from a more traditional classroom and traditional approaches to learning. Because inquiry is unique to each child–and their background knowledge, their literacy level, their natural curiosity (and lack of curiosity), etc–it can seem ‘disruptive’ compared to ‘sit-and-get’ teaching and learning. It also can and should students to places the teacher may not have anticipated. Without planning for these characteristics, inquiry-based learning can seem ineffective, and a significant ‘waste of time.’

<<Grow with TeachThought PD Inquiry Workshops>>

In 20 Questions To Guide Inquiry-Based Learning, we offered some of the kinds of questions that can guide self-directed inquiry, including:

What do I want to know about this topic?

How do I know I know it? What kinds of resources might help?

How do I know the info is valid?

Does my research raise new questions?

How do I use media to express my message?

One of the primary takeaways from these resources is the open-ended nature and diverse possibility of inquiry-based learning–for students, it can be experienced as the same difference between coloring in a coloring book, or creating a coloring book of their own.

10 Reasons To Use Inquiry-Based Learning In Your Classroom

Between what we know about inquiry and what the graphic seems to imply, we’ve added a little of our own interpretation and extracted 10 reasons any teacher–of any content area and at any grade level–should consider using inquiry-based learning in their classroom.

1. It’s naturally student-centered.

2. It focuses on questions and the process of answering those questions rather than the answer itself.

3. It promotes depth of knowledge.

4. It provides opportunities for autonomy.

5. It requires student engagement. (Inquiry-based learning won’t work without inquiry, and inquiry can’t happen without engagement.)

6. It builds soft skills–and can build confidence and relationships, too.

7. It ‘teaches students to think.’ (See #5.)

8. It provides opportunities for modeling, mentoring, and reflection.

9. It builds citizenship–digital citizenship and local/’physical’ citizenship.

10. It’s flexible and powerful. (It can drive other types of learning–project-based learning, place-based education, self-directed learning, etc.)

*previously published at TeachThought.com


  1. George Lilley

    Thanks for the excellent overview of Inquiry-based learning. It is hard to see why Hattie has this ranked very low on his rankings. So, i sought out peer reviews of his research.

    Dr Mandy Lupton looked at his research and concluded-

    “It’s hard to see that any useful conclusions to improve teaching and learning can be drawn from Hattie’s analysis. And it’s alarming that school administrators are using Hattie’s research to dismiss inquiry approaches out of hand.”

    Details here – https://visablelearning.blogspot.com.au/p/inquiry-based-teaching.html

  2. Brenda Callahan

    I work at an IB Elementary School and this is the way we were trained to teach our students.

    The Subject by Subject,
    Scheduled Time Teaching Method
    causes an immediate
    Interrupted Thought Process.

    Just when students are actively involved in the discussion of a particular subject area and begin inquiring, the teacher stops them, closes the door on that area of focus and leads them to another. This immediately disrupts their brain, their thought process.
    Students now have to do the same procedure for the next subject and the next. It is a never ending cycle.

    Teachers lead and students follow them around a circle.
    It does not allow students to ask why, to wonder, to discuss how all of these subjects come together.

    Inquire Based Teaching allows connections to all core subjects.
    It is an uninterrupted flow, students’ brains are allowed to stretch, inquire how things are connected, the purpose for learning particular standards and building on them.

    This method of teaching is extremely effective.
    It provides continuous spiral review and enhanced learning to occur at the same time in all core subject areas.
    Thus resulting in:
    Students having ownership of their learning
    Student ownership leads to
    Student engagement
    Student engagement leads to
    Students actively involved in discussing their thoughts, interpretations with their peers and most importantly allows their brain to think out of the box.
    Students then become the facilitator of their learning which leads to success.


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