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Why Inquiry-Based Education?

Hannah E Cooley
University of Alaska Anchorage


If I look back on my education, I remember reading textbooks, listening to
lectures, and scribbling notes to memorize for the exam. I passed my tests, but I didnt
absorb much knowledge. I think I would have learned more if I were engaged in
activities and research that made the content more applicable to me. Today, teachers and
administrators are pushing for this type of education through inquiry-based learning
practices. To break it down, inquiry is a process used to obtain knowledge to answer a
question or solve a problem. When applied in the classroom, inquiry-based learning is
when students are searching, investigating, and questioning to find answers and
solve problems (Gunstone, Loughran, Berry, & Mulhall, 1999, p. 3). If we apply this
directly to science education, learning by inquiry encourages students to develop
questions, design experiments, analyze results, and communicate their findings
(Kennedy, 2013, p. 291). Students get to learn by becoming the scientists in a fun and
creative learning environment.
Other Opinions
Many teachers are hesitant to try inquiry-based practices for many reasons. First,
theyre worried about the lessons meeting standards, but there are many online resources
with projects already developed that conform to national standards (Yeung, 2008). Many
sites also offer advice to help teachers make their own plans. Next, teachers are
concerned with how much time it takes to plan inquiry-based projects and activities
(Yeung, 2008). It may take more time to plan, but students will get a much deeper
understanding of the content. This is not only rewarding to teachers, but something
students will carry with them. Lastly, teachers are concerned about losing control of their


classroom (Yeung, 2008). They fear that the shift from traditional lectures will cause
them to lose control and students will act out. As Yeung (2008) writes, its the difference
between controlling the classroom and commanding it (para. 16). Teachers may lose
control in an inquiry-based setting, but they will always maintain command of their
classroom (Yeung, 2008).
On the other end, teachers are excited about adopting inquiry-based practices in
their classrooms. In one study, researchers found that teaching strategies that actively
engage students in the learning process through scientific investigations are more likely
to increase conceptual understanding than are strategies that rely on more passive
techniques (Kennedy, 2013, p. 298). Not only did students improve their process skills,
but they also improved their attitude towards science (Kennedy, 2013, p. 302). In another
study, students saw lab work as a way to make science more interesting while deepening
their understanding of theoretical concepts (Gunstone et al., 1999, p. 6).
My Rationale
I am a strong advocate for inquiry-based education. Frankly, I dont understand
why you wouldnt be. I understand the concern about planning lessons, but once they are
organized, it will be easier thereafter. The reason why I argue for this type of learning is
because I think it is much more beneficial to students than traditional lectures. How many
students even pay attention during lecture? Are they actually taking notes or just doodling
or daydreaming? I think the majority of students today learn better by interacting with
peers and being in control of their own thoughts and experiments. It turns the classroom
into a fun learning environment where students are excited to participate and be engaged
in their own research.


Gunstone, R. F., Loughran, J. J., Berry, A., & Mulhall, P. (1999). Inquiry in Science
ClassesDo We Know How, When and When? Retrieved from
Kennedy, D. (2013). The role of investigations in promoting inquiry-based science
education in Ireland. Science Education International, 24 (3). Retrieved from
Yeung, B. (2008). Put to the Test: Confronting Concerns About Project Learning.
Retrieved from