Definition: teaching and lesson-planning method in which student formulates a question, or inquiry, which he or she then researches, answers, analyzes and shares with classmates. As opposed to more traditional teaching styles in which the teacher lectures or otherwise provides students with information, inquiry-based learning provides the student the freedom to choose what interests him or her. He or she, therefore, is empowered by, engaged, and invested in the work and learning process.

  • active learning
  • meaningful experiences for students
  • gives context to learning
  • student considers multiple perspectives

As they collect information to answer the inquiry or topic, students acquire and comprehend new information, in addition to sharpening analytical, communicative and collaborative skills. In inquiry-based learning, the teacher is a guide for the student-centered process.

Basic steps:
  1. Teacher accesses students' prior knowledge on a topic
  2. Students gather more information about topic
  3. Teacher provides background information
  4. Students select own inquiries to answer
  5. Students do research, make sense of information gathered with guidance of teacher
  6. Students present findings to peers
  7. Students reflect on process

Sample lesson plans:
  1. Various Grade Levels and subjects
  2. Smithsonian: various subjects
  3. Resources for designing your own

  1. Second-language acquisition and Inquiry-based learning
  2. Five-year-olds pilot their own project learning
  3. 8th grade science class: toxic waste disposal


Inquiry-based learning may be a struggle for second-language learners. Without the needed skills in the target language, one may get lost in the process. Teachers must take care to help struggling students to find their talents and interests and to provide them needed support. A school with a low budget may not be able to provide this support.


Created by Courtney Crawford