Activating a student's curiosity can inspire learning beyond presentation of the material. Inquiry-based learning strives to do this by engaging students in asking and answering questions using the knowledge, methods, tools, and skills appropriate for their field. These experiences prepare students to excel in research and design projects, and production of scholarship and creative works.
Question Drives Inquiry
Asking questions as part of learning models for students the ways that we engage in knowledge creation and scholarly work. Questions can be used in both closed inquiry, where students are discovering knowledge that is new to them, usually following prompts from instructors to guide their process, and in open inquiry, where students are generating new knowledge or synthesizing information in new ways. Asking questions is also an effective way to help students monitor their own learning.
Action Engages Students
Involving students in the creation of their own knowledge promotes learning, achievement, and retention. As part of an inquiry-based curriculum, students will learn and practice methods of investigation or creation that are relevant to the discipline. They will collect and analyze data or sources to make appropriate conclusions, recognizing limitations or restrictions in their analysis. They will learn the conventions of writing and communicating within genre of the discipline and practice communicating their own findings. Inquiry-based learning emphasizes the student role as an active participant in learning.
Reflection is Key
Reflecting on the inquiry process can help students be more aware of themes between topics or fields. It is important that students learn not only how to construct their own knowledge, but also how to evaluate new information in the context of that knowledge. For example, students might reflect on whether they selected the right question to produce a result, whether an employed method has limitations that hinder data analysis, whether a selection of texts is sufficient to support a specific argument, or whether visual, numerical, or textual presentation of the results would be most convincing. At the same time, it is important that faculty reflect on the process to ensure that students are meeting the desired learning goals through inquiry.