Module 1: Introduction to IBL: characteristics, potential and examples of use

Project: “Inquiry Based Learning”

Module 1: Introduction to IBL: characteristics, potential and examples of use

Purpose of Module 1: In this 30-60 minute module you will be introduced to IBL – its characteristics, its potential as well as be provided with examples of the application of IBL in a variety of disciplinary contexts.

Envisaged outcomes for Module 1:

On completion of this module you should be able to do the following:

  • Provide a personal working definition of IBL
  • Differentiate IBL from other teaching strategies
  • Evaluate which of the characteristics of IBL will be most useful in your own disciplinary and institutional context
  • Map a number of issues you want to have clarified in using IBL in your own disciplinary and institutional context

Activity 1: Kindly develop a definition of Inquiry Based Learning on your own thoughts.

Inquiry Based Learning: inquiry-based learning (also enquiry-based learning in British English)[1] is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios. It contrasts with traditional education, which generally relies on the teacher presenting facts and his or her knowledge about the subject. Inquiry-based Learning is often assisted by a facilitator rather than a lecturer. Inquirers will identify and research issues and questions to develop knowledge or solutions. Inquiry-based learning includes problem-based learning, and is generally used in small scale investigations and projects, as well as research[2] The inquiry-based instruction is principally very closely related to the development and practice of thinking and problem solving skills.[3]

From a student point-of-view, inquiry-based learning focuses on investigating an open question or problem. They must use evidence-based reasoning and creative problem-solving to reach a conclusion, which they must defend or present.

From a teacher point-of-view, inquiry-based teaching focuses on moving students beyond general curiosity into the realms of critical thinking and understanding. You must encourage students to ask questions and support them through the investigation process, understanding when to begin and how to structure an inquiry activity[4]

Activity 2: Kindly find out the difference between Problem based learning & Project based learning.

Relation between Inquiry Based Learning(IBL), Problem Based Learning(PBL), Project Based Learning(PjBL):

  1. Inquiry-based learning (IBL)

It all starts with a question. One essential question enables teachers to cover curriculum outcomes as well as inspire student curiosity and open conversation. IBL programs should be flexible where student responses lead to further questioning and informs the teacher of the direction the learning takes.

“Questions lie at the heart of inquiry.”

(Murdoch, 20117)

The focus of IBL is on the student learning process and development of deeper understanding. Students become investigators, accessing information through technology and experiences.

Suggested Resources;

  • Teacher inquiry guide
  • Virtual reality resources
  • Video/animation resources
  • Interactive resources
  • Student directed websites
  • Inquiry activity ideas
  1. Problem-based learning (PBL)

Although similar to IBL, it is not the same. PBL calls for students to solve an authentic real-world problem through investigation. It encourages students to experience a learning process where they investigate, test, discover and repeat when necessary in order to find a viable solution.

“It empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem,”

(John Savery, 2006)

PBL involves a collaborative approach to an open-ended problem with many possibilities of viable solutions. Students will have an opportunity to apply skills and knowledge from across the curriculum.

Suggested resources;

  • PBL unit of work
  • Student-directed website
  • Video/animation resources
  • Interactive resources
  • Video conference lessons
  1. Project-based learning (PjBL)

PjBL involves a long-term program where students work on real-world problems in order to produce a tangible product. It encourages students to design, problem-solve, think critically and investigate.

“It is designed to put students into a students-as-workers setting in which they can learn collaboration, critical-thinking, and written- and oral-communication skills along with the values of strong work ethic.”

(Pearlman qtd. in Boss, 2011)

Students are called to be active learners who take responsibility for self-managing their progress throughout the program.

Suggested resources;

  • PjBL unit of work
  • Student-directed website
  • Video/animation resources
  • Interactive resources
  • Video conference lessons [5] [6] [7]

Activity 3: Among the three types of IBL mentioned above which one is more appropriate? And why?

Characteristics of Inquiry-Based Learning:

  • Authentic: Authentic work is work that the world needs done and is characterized by knowledge building (Bereiter 2002), not knowledge consumption and regurgitation.

  • Academic Rigour: Academic rigour requires that students engage in intellectually challenging tasks that entail discipline. Inquiry challenges our generally accepted assumptions of students’ abilities. Working in inquiry-based ways, we continually find that children are capable of far more than adults might normally expect. By challenging assumptions about child development, we see evidence of how development both effects and affects learning, and how learning also effects and affects development (Bransford, Brown and Cocking 2002).

  • Learning in the World: Students address questions and issues that are relevant to the curriculum but also related to the world outside school. For example, students studying the water quality and supply of the Bow River address problem posing and problem solving. Such projects also require students to work in groups to communicate, make decisions and apply project management skills with the guidance of their teachers. In strong inquiry work, students become engaged in tasks that adults undertake.

  • Digital Technologies: Appropriate and meaningful integration of technology extends and enhances student thinking when it is integrated into all stages of the exploration. Exposing students to a variety of technologies (video conferencing, simulation, databases, multimedia and hypermedia software) allows them to choose the best one to assist in the initial stages of research and communication with their audiences both inside and outside the classroom. Technology also allows parents to communicate with teachers and stay abreast of their child’s progress.

  • Active Exploration: Active exploration in relation to robust inquiry requires students to become involved in authentic investigations using construction, fieldwork, laboratory work, interviews and studio work. Various ways to present the findings of inquiry gives students the opportunity to extend their understanding. Active exploration builds upon current research in the discipline and invites the children’s natural curiosity, creativity, effervescence and engagement.

  • Connecting with Experts: It is necessary for students to communicate with experts to enhance the inquiry. This allows them to get a picture of what is relevant and topical in the discipline. Experts should recognize the student’s work as worthy of the discipline.

  • Assessment for Learning: Teachers’ wisdom, the character of the discipline and knowledge of the Alberta Program of Studies, guide the selection of assessment criteria. At the outset of the study, students set clear criteria that is continually revisited and extended throughout the inquiry. Through ownership and involvement in the assessment process, students develop key understandings and skills and become increasingly self-reflective through targeted feedback. Formative assessment involves all participants. Ongoing feedback should be offered to students from teachers, peers, self and experts. Student learning is strongly supported by feedback at all stages of the inquiry and is critical for cultivating deep understanding.Write the first paragraph of your page here.

(Borrowed from the Alberta Teachers Association Magazine, Volume 87, 2006-2007)

Activity 4: Among the above characteristics which has the practical impact with the modern education system? Which are not suitable. Kindly mention your suggestion ho these can be suitable for the current education system.

Benefits of Enquiry-Based Learning:

Enquiry-based learning helps students to be:

  • inquisitive and curious about things that they experience in their everyday lives
  • able to pose problems, ask questions, and recognise issues that they would like to explore
  • able to develop an understanding that knowledge changes over time as people challenge, shape and contribute to it
  • responsible for deciding what they learn and how they learn it
  • confident that they too can challenge, shape and contribute to knowledge
  • aware that there are always multiple perspectives for looking at, analysing and understanding things
  • able to propose solutions to problems and questions, and to know how to pursue these solutions.

Enquiry-based teaching supports teachers to be:

  • open to students’ ideas about the processes and directions of their learning
  • keen to learn about how ideas and knowledge are produced in subjects other than their own
  • able to research topics and make connections between ideas
  • interested in students’ lives and cultures
  • able to challenge students to critique, expand and build upon the knowledge they have from their own experiences and ideas.

(Taken from:

Activity 5: Kindly discuss the disadvantages of IBL, like: where it will not work properly as well as will face the difficulties. And what can be the solution for this difficulties.

Impact on learning: Enquiry-based teaching and learning have been shown to increase motivation and interest of learners and teachers, and can significantly increase achievement on standardised tests. The increased focus required of the learners to discuss and be involved in practical work means that there will be less emphasis on writing down factual information only. On the whole, students will be involved in more higher order thinking and this increases the level of challenge of learning for all the learners.

(Taken from “Bright Ideas in Primary Science” evaluation in 16 schools:

Activity 6: Will you use IBL on your academics plan? If yes, why? What kind of advantages it has than other method? Please share with us.

Self-assessment or portfolio activities that will provide evidence of competence for Module 1:

  • Find five different definitions of IBL and compile a list of IBL’s characteristics
  • Contrast IBL with at least three other learning theories
  • Using these definitions and list of characteristics compile a personal working definition of IBL
  • Design an IBL strategy to solve a pedagogical problem in a specific disciplinary and educational context
  • Compile a list of issues pertaining to using IBL in your specific disciplinary and educational context and engage with your personal learning environment to look for possible answers/solutions


  8. Alberta Teachers Association Magazine, Volume 87, 2006-2007

Attribution for this Module:

Inquiry Based Learning,Module 1: Introduction to IBL: characteristics, potential and examples of use by Mohammed Galib Hasan is licensed under a CC BY SA 4.0 International license.