The Sage Oak Blog: Inquiry Based Learning

This year, Sage Oak teachers are taking some time to focus on a variety of instructional strategies to continuously improve our service to our students. Our teachers have been focusing on different strategies each month for their professional development and we would like to share those strategies with Sage Oak parents! 

Each month we will provide resources and training for a specific instructional strategy that you can implement during day-to-day instruction. This month’s instructional strategy is Inquiry-Based Learning. 

Please feel free to watch the training examples and read more about inquiry-based learning below. Your teacher might be utilizing these methods in the upcoming months:

  1. Inquiry Ninja – Inquiry-Based Learning Introduction
  2. Inquiry Ninja – Two-minute video examples of IBL

What is inquiry-based learning (IBL)? Inquiry-based learning provides students with opportunities to develop their own knowledge about a subject. Posing students with a question acts as a learning foundation that helps a student to build on. Inquiry-based learning actively engages students and allows the student to lead the discussion through research. Thus, teaching students how to think and not what to think. This learning process creates an engaging environment for students to participate in by developing connections through instructional questioning and exploration. 


Here’s an overview of how inquiry-based learning can be applied:

  • Carefully plans learning units
  • Develops a topic to explore
  • Designs explorative activities

There are multiple levels of inquiry-based learning, which offers students multiple ways of engagement as well as a personalized learning experience. Here are three levels of IBL that can be applied:

  • Structured Inquiry
    • The teacher guides the inquiry
    • Provides questions and instructions to find the answer; high level of  guidance
    • Good starting point for teachers new to inquiry based learning

  • Guided Inquiry
    • Student(s) take responsibility for guiding inquiry
    • Teacher provides feedback to help guide students

  • Open Inquiry
    • Student(s) take the lead 
    • Teacher acts in a supportive role; low level of guidance
    • Requires higher-order thinking by students

Coupled inquiry is a combination of two types of inquiries. 

What are some of the benefits of inquiry based learning? Let’s dive in! There are quite a few benefits of inquiry based learning for both students and teachers. As an advocate for personalized learning, it’s safe to say that there’s no one size fits all learning style. IBL offers the benefit of enhancing a student’s learning experience by offering a more hands-on or explorative approach. Through exploration, students can also benefit from curiosity while increasing their engagement with a subject. Inquiry based learning also teaches both cognitive and comprehension skills and can help guide a student’s responsibility for their own learning.

So how do I implement inquiry based learning? Easily! First, choose the inquiry based learning level that best fits a student. Then, begin with a question, but, be sure to ask the right question. This includes questions that are engaging and provoke meaningful analysis on a subject. Think of your student(s) and in which ways they will respond to a proposed question as you plan. This will help you to best meet their needs. You’ll then offer guidance to the student based on the level of inquiry you’ve chosen.

And remember, inquiry based learning is a clear inquiry pathway to the result and that’s ok! On their journey of learning, students will be able to unpack resources and develop new understandings that were initially unknown when the journey began. Here are a few questions for teachers that can help when guiding students from one step to the next:

  • What is it we want our students to know/do?
  • How will we know if our students are learning?
  • How will we respond when students do not learn?
  • How will we respond when students do learn?