What is Inquiry-based Learning?
A dynamic process
Inquiry-based Learning is a dynamic and emergent process that builds on students' natural curiosity about the world in which they live. As its name suggests, Inquiry places students' questions and ideas, rather than solely those of the teacher, at the centre of the learning experience. Students' questions drive the learning process forward. Teachers using an inquiry-based approach encourage students to ask and genuinely investigate their own questions about the world. Teachers further facilitate students' learning by providing a variety of tools, resources, and experiences that enable learners to investigate, reflect, and rigorously discuss potential solutions to their own questions about a topic the class is studying.
A pedagogical mindset
The inquiry-based approach is not a rigid methodology or set of procedures. Rather, it entails an overall mindset, one that pervades school and classroom life to foster a culture of collaborative learning and idea improvement. Teachers continually encourage students to contribute their ideas and engage in critical problem-solving processes in a variety of contexts, whether curricular or social. The process of student learning, more so than the teacher's focus on 'covering the curriculum' is paramount. By encouraging active learning, teachers enable students to deepen their understanding of the content in a manner appropriate to their needs and developmental stages. Thus, a teacher might provide an openended respond to a student's question such as, Further, if the student appears to need time and space to work out his or her ideas, the teacher might say, .
One can think about Inquiry-based Learning as a continuum that moves from closed to open. The more teacher-directed the learning, the more closed the inquiry. The more student-directed the learning, the more open the inquiry. At The Laboratory School, teachers try to facilitate open inquiry wherever possible. Making the decision to do this requires what some teachers have
described as a "leap of faith", a sense of trust and confidence that this new way of thinking and doing will lead to valuable learning for their students. Marlene Scardamalia, co-founder of the Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology (IKIT) likens this shift to a Copernican Revolution, "much like moving the sun from the periphery to the centre" (2000, pg.5).