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Inquiry-based Learning - IBL

extract from deliverable D1.2 "Contents specifications, including needs analysis, content definition, methodology and pedagogical scenarios" of the Erasmus + Let's STEAM project

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is an educational flexible strategy with phases that are often organized in a cycle and divided into subphases with logical connections depending on the context under investigation (Pedaste et al., 2015). This framework entails five general phases (Orientation, Conceptualization, Investigation, Conclusion and Discussion) and seven sub-phases (Questioning, Hypothesis Generation, Exploration, Experimentation, Data Interpretation, Reflection, and Communication).


It can be used by teachers in order to conceptualize a structured way to implement inquiry activities and develop multidisciplinary educational projects in their classroom. IBL is not a linear procedure and learners should be involved with various forms of inquiry, going through different combinations of the phases, not all of them necessarily.


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identification of the problem: the topic to be investigated is presented and interest about a problematic situation that can be answered with inquiry is stimulated. The topic under investigation must be relevant to students’ daily life, interests and prior knowledge
teacher's involvement: encourage students to express ideas, prior knowledge and questions about the topic, while promoting interaction and communication between them
understanding of the concept, which relates to the problematic situation presented in the previous phase. It is divided in two sub phases (questioning and hypothesis generation) that lead the learner to the investigation phase
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teacher's involvement: help students understand how they can formulate questions and/or hypotheses that can lead to an investigation
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collect evidence in order to answer their questions and/or test their hypothesis (National Science Foundation, 2000), determine what constitutes evidence and collect it through 3 subphases: exploration / experimentation / data interpretation
teacher's involvement: provide students with the materials they need and keep them on track so that the process answers the inquiry question. Provide or encourage students to create ways that can help them organize, classify, and analyze data
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draw conclusions based on the investigative question and the interpretation of the data
teacher's involvement: stimulate comparison between the interpreted data and the predictions and initial ideas (that students expressed during the orientation phase) and lead to new hypotheses and questions about the topic under investigation.
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articulate their findings through communicating them to others and/or reflecting upon all or some of the stages of inquiry during the process or by the end of it (Pedaste et al., 2015). 
teacher's involvement: encourage collaboration so that students can present their findings and ideas, provide arguments and give feedback to others

types of inquiry

The types of inquiry vary so that students are actively involved in the process to the extent that they are competent and able to do so. The type of inquiry a teacher may choose to follow is highly depended on the objectives of the lesson, the age of the students, their previous involvement with inquiry and the scientific skills they have already acquired. As shown below, the more responsibility the student has, the less direction is provided and more open the inquiry becomes (National Research Council, 2000).

The variations of inquiry types concern the increasing or decreasing involvement of the teacher and student in the process. Structured inquiry is directed from the teacher so that students reach a specific result, whereas in mixed inquiry students are more involved during an investigation with the teacher guidance still being the most dominant. These forms of inquiry usually are chosen when students are first introduced to inquiry practices and when there is a focus in the development of a specific skill or concept. Open inquiry provides more opportunities for developing scientific skills, given that during open inquiry the students work directly with the materials and practices in a way that resembles authentic scientific approaches (National Research Council, 2000).

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