What exactly IS Inquiry Based Learning (IBL)?
March 23, 2018
By: Kendall Hunt
There seems to be a lot of talk recently about Inquiry Based Learning, but what exactly is it? Well, it’s always been a part of the core of education since ancient time, but a recent push brought its importance to light. The prominence of IBL really accelerated in the 1960s when the Educational Policies Commission wanted to focus the central purpose of American education. The statement they issued called for an emphasis on developing students’ skills in recalling and imagining; classifying and generalizing; comparing and evaluation; analyzing and synthesizing; and deducting and inferring. These formed the modern fundamentals of Inquiry Based Learning.
These fundamentals then evolved from an ideology or technique into more of a process or set of steps for which to approach a topic. The core, however stayed the same: students are at the center of Inquiry Based Learning and sources such as teachers, materials, and technology act only as aids. This puts emphasis on developing a students’ abilities to pursue their own courses of learning and the means in which to learn. In short, Inquiry Based Learning follows the thought process of “learning by doing” or “hands-on learning.” Also falling into this category is Project Based Learning, which is built on the same concepts.
Project Based Learning Advocate Suzie Boss puts it best: “Instead of learning about nutrition in the abstract, students act as consultants to develop a healthier school cafeteria menu. Rather than learning about the past from a textbook, students become historians as they make a documentary about an event that changed their community.” While there is still much value placed on the more traditional forms of education, Inquiry or Project Based Learning is meant to activate student motivation and provide for connections to be made between the classroom and the outside world. “Problem-based learning puts the student in charge of asking questions and discovering answers,” says Boss.
With the recent adoption of the CCSS for math and the NGSS, inquiry based learning is becoming more popular. In order to provide math and science students with a quality education that prepares them for the future, it is imperative that they learn to think deeply, make real-world connections, and persevere in solving problems. The goal of IBL is for students to develop a deep understanding and “make sense of” math and science. These are also goals of the CCSS and NGSS.
So whatever you choose to call it—Inquiry, Project, or Problem Based Learning— the fundamental principle of students driving their own education remains the same. While there’s always been an influence of Inquiry Based Learning in education across the board, our world of technology and the constant flow of information highlights a need for students to live at the center of their own learning, ultimately developing strong senses of ambitions, leadership, and motivation.