5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education + Strategies for Implementing it!

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education

If you’ve never tried inquiry-based education, now is your time! Students have agency in their learning, a deeper understanding of content, and a love of learning.

What is Inquiry-based education?

Inquiry-based education is a student-centered approach that emphasizes active learning through questioning, exploration, and investigation. Rather than simply imparting information to students, teachers facilitate the learning process by encouraging students to ask questions, seek answers, and construct their own knowledge.

This approach promotes critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Research has shown that inquiry-based learning leads to improved academic performance and long-term retention of knowledge (National Science Teachers Association, 2019).

Implementing inquiry-based education can be a transformative experience. It allows educators to step away from traditional teaching methods and embrace a more student-centered approach. By facilitating open-ended questions and hands-on activities, educators can create dynamic learning environments that cater to individual needs and interests. This not only increases student engagement but also empowers students to take ownership of their own learning journey.

With all this in mind, here are 5 reasons I think you should try inquiry-based education with your students.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Promote engagement

1. Inquiry-based Education Promotes Curiosity and Engagement

One of the key benefits of inquiry-based education is its ability to cultivate curiosity and engagement in students. By allowing students to pursue their own interests and questions, they become more invested in their learning journey. This sense of ownership over their education not only fosters a love for learning but also enhances motivation and enthusiasm.

Students become motivated to explore new ideas and concepts. Instead of being passive recipients of information, they become active participants who seek out knowledge through questioning and investigation. This heightened curiosity leads to increased engagement in the classroom as well as a greater sense of ownership over their own learning journey.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Foster a deeper understanding

2. Foster a deeper understanding of subject matter with inquiry-based education

Furthermore, inquiry-based education goes beyond surface-level understanding of subjects. It enables students to develop a deeper understanding by actively exploring concepts, conducting research, and applying knowledge in real-world contexts. This approach encourages students to connect new information with prior knowledge, facilitating a more holistic understanding of the subject matter.

Rather than simply memorizing facts or formulas, students are encouraged to delve into the underlying principles behind these concepts. They are challenged to connect different pieces of information, analyze data critically, and draw conclusions based on evidence. This holistic approach not only improves their comprehension but also enables them to apply their knowledge in practical situations.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Create a lifelong love of learning

3. Create a lifelong love of learning with Inquiry-based education

Another advantage of inquiry-based education is that it nurtures lifelong learners. By promoting curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, this approach equips students with valuable tools for continuous learning throughout their lives. In today’s rapidly changing world, where knowledge is constantly evolving, the ability to inquire and seek answers independently is crucial for success.

When students experience the joy of uncovering answers through their own efforts rather than relying solely on textbooks or lectures, they develop an intrinsic motivation for continuous learning. This mindset extends beyond the classroom, allowing them to approach new challenges with curiosity and a growth-oriented mindset. As they progress through their academic journey and into adulthood, these individuals are more likely to seek out opportunities for personal and professional development.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Navigate complex problems

4. Navigate Complex Challenges with Inquiry-Based Education

Inquiry-based education offers numerous advantages for students, educators, and parents alike. By promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills, it equips students with the tools necessary to navigate complex challenges both inside and outside the classroom. Furthermore, this approach enhances students’ curiosity and engagement in learning, fostering a deeper understanding of subjects while encouraging lifelong learning.

One of the key benefits of inquiry-based education is its ability to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Traditional education often focuses on memorization and regurgitation of facts, whereas inquiry-based education encourages students to think critically and analyze information.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Tackle real world problems

5. Prepare students to tackle real-world problems with inquiry-based education

Through asking questions, investigating topics, and finding solutions to real-world problems, students develop essential problem-solving skills that can be applied in various aspects of their lives. This process not only helps them understand concepts more deeply but also prepares them for future academic and professional endeavors.

What is the role of parents in inquiry-based education?

Parents should encourage their children’s curiosity and provide opportunities for exploration outside of the classroom. Parents can help foster a love for learning that extends beyond school walls. Engaging in conversations about what their children are learning and encouraging them to ask questions further reinforces the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In this way, parents also play a vital role in supporting inquiry-based education.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Implementing inquiry-based education

Implementing Inquiry-Based Education

Implementing inquiry-based education involves creating a supportive learning environment that encourages students to explore and discover knowledge on their own. By providing open-ended questions and investigations, educators can stimulate curiosity and critical thinking skills in students.

It may seem a little challenging to start, but the rewards are great. Students you typically find challenging might be the stars in a situation where they can direct their learning.

1. Create a supportive learning environment

This should be a no-brainer. Learning in any environment requires a supportive learning environment. One of the key aspects of implementing inquiry-based education is creating a supportive learning environment. This involves establishing a classroom culture that values questioning, exploration, and collaboration.

Educators can create this environment by fostering a sense of trust and respect among students, encouraging them to share their ideas and opinions freely. By providing a safe space for students to ask questions and take risks, educators can nurture their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Provide open-ended questions

2. Provide open-ended questions

Inquiry-based education also requires providing open-ended questions and investigations that challenge students to think critically. These types of questions do not have one correct answer but instead encourage students to explore multiple perspectives and come up with their own solutions.

For example, instead of telling students about the story, ask questions like:

  1. “How do you think the author’s background and experiences might have influenced the themes and messages in this novel?”
  2. “What connections can you draw between the characters in the play and real-life historical or contemporary figures?”
  3. “Why do you think the character in the story made that decision? What other choices could they have made?”
  4. “How do you think the story would change if it were set in a different place or time? Can you imagine a new ending?”

Open-ended investigations allow students to engage in hands-on learning experiences where they can apply their knowledge in real-world contexts. This approach not only enhances their problem-solving skills but also fosters creativity and innovation.

3. Encourage student-led exploration

Encouraging student-led exploration is another important aspect of implementing inquiry-based education. Instead of simply delivering information, educators act as facilitators who guide students through the learning process. They provide resources, support, and guidance while allowing students to take ownership of their learning journey.

I’ve used these with success in my classes:

  1. Literature Circles: Students can form small groups and choose a book to read together. Each group member takes on a different role, such as discussion leader, summarizer, connector, or illustrator. They explore the text independently, discussing their insights, questions, and interpretations during group meetings. This approach empowers students to take ownership of their learning, delve into diverse perspectives, and collaborate with peers.
  2. Project-Based Learning: Students select a topic or theme of interest related to their English curriculum and design a project to explore it in-depth. For example, they might create a multimedia presentation, write and perform a play, or produce a podcast discussing literary themes or analyzing a novel’s characters. Through this hands-on approach, students engage in meaningful research, critical thinking, and creative expression, driving their learning forward autonomously.

This approach empowers students to ask their own questions, conduct research, analyze data, and draw conclusions based on evidence. By giving students autonomy over their learning, educators foster independence and self-directedness.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - student assessment

4. Student Assessment

Assessing and evaluating inquiry-based learning can be challenging due to its open-ended nature. Traditional forms of assessment may not accurately capture the depth of understanding or critical thinking skills developed through inquiry-based education.

Here are a couple of examples I’ve used in class:

  1. Inquiry Project Portfolio: Students create a portfolio showcasing their inquiry project from start to finish. This portfolio might include their initial research question, a summary of their research process, annotated bibliography of sources consulted, notes from discussions or interviews conducted, drafts of written work or multimedia presentations, and reflections on their learning journey. The portfolio allows students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills, research abilities, and ability to communicate their findings in various formats.
  2. Socratic Seminars: Students participate in a Socratic seminar focused on a particular literary work or theme. During the seminar, students take turns asking open-ended questions, sharing their insights, and engaging in meaningful dialogue with their peers. The teacher assesses students based on their contributions to the discussion, including the quality of their questions, depth of analysis, use of evidence from the text, and ability to respond thoughtfully to others’ perspectives. This assessment method encourages active participation, critical thinking, and collaborative communication skills.

It is important for educators to use a variety of assessment methods that align with the goals of inquiry-based learning. Consider using performance tasks, portfolios, presentations, or self-reflections where students can demonstrate their understanding and reflect on their learning process. By providing constructive feedback and encouraging self-assessment, educators can support students in developing metacognitive skills and becoming lifelong learners.

5 Reasons You Should Try Inquiry-Based Education - Something to try!

Inquiry-based learning – A great way to learn!

Inquiry-based education offers numerous benefits for educators, parents, and students alike. By promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills, it equips students with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. Through inquiry-based learning, students are encouraged to ask questions, explore their curiosity, and actively engage in the learning process. This not only fosters a deeper understanding of subjects but also instills a love for lifelong learning.

Inquiry-based education is not just limited to the classroom; it has far-reaching implications for students’ future success. The ability to think critically, solve problems creatively, and adapt to new situations is essential in today’s rapidly changing world. By embracing inquiry-based education, educators, parents, and students can unlock the full potential of this transformative approach to learning.

If you’d like to continue learning about pedagogy, I suggest reading The Enduring Montessori Approach: Fostering Independence and Lifelong Learning, Unlocking the 7+ Benefits of the Reggio Emilia Method, or 7 Essential Benefits of Constructivist Teaching.

If you’re in need of coaching, please check out my new coaching page! I coach & mentor teachers and parents, and I’d love to help you! New teachers, check out 9 Ways to Prevent Teacher Burnout: Tips from a Veteran Teacher and 25+ Secrets to Effective New Teacher Planning and Preparation.

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Happy reading!


I am an educator with almost 15 years of experience teaching in Japan, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles. My goal is to change education and the way we view literacy instruction in America.

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