National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Schreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


Inquiry-based learning is a research-based learning technique used to promote student comprehension, self-reflection, and research skills. The implementation of inquiry-based learning methods in the classroom can look very different depending on student factors, such as academic level, and on instructional variations, such as academic discipline. In all cases, students will learn more meaningful information if inquiry-based activities are student-centered. The five phases of inquiry-based learning are (1) identification of prior knowledge, (2) student exploration, (3) focus on content, (4) organization of new ideas, and (5) application to new situations. This issue reaction explores ideas on how to implement inquiry-based learning in a course as well as the challenges of this approach.

Inquiry-based learning can be described as "the acquisition of new concepts through carefully structured student activities involving the formulation and testing of hypotheses" (Otto, 1991). Inquirybased learning is a research-based strategy that actively involves students in an exploration of the content, issues, and questions surrounding a curricular area. Activities are designed so that students work individually or in teams to solve problems that incorporate both class work and fieldwork.

While inquiry-based, problem-based, and case-based learning all provide opportunities for students to be actively involved in their learning (Feletti, 1993), inquiry-based learning is the most appropriate instructional method to use if you want your students to become ,better researchers. By implementing an inquiry-based technique, students have more opportunity to reflect on their own learning and thus gain a deeper understanding of the course concepts (King, 1995).