INQUIRY BASED LEARNING
Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), is an idea that is both highly celebrated and highly criticized. It is both one of the most popular modern teaching concepts and most debated modern teaching concepts. That being said, IBL is often misunderstood both by its critics and its advocates. As popular as IBL is, it is often conflated together with a whole host of other ideas. IBL is also sometimes viewed more as a philosophical branch of teaching, rather than a specific concept. However, that being said, IBL does have a specific meaning and before we move further into the article we should both define what IBL is and its many associated teaching factors, for the sake of complete clarity.
Inquiry-Based Learning is a pedagogy focused on the idea of students learning independently, not directly from a teacher. This can be contrasted to Direct Instruction, which at its core is the most fundamental and basic pedagogy. Direct instruction occurs when a teacher directly explains something to a student. For example, if you asked a student to go research Pythagorean Theorem, that would be IBL based instruction, whereas if you explicitly explained to a student the Pythagorean Theorem, that would be Direct Instruction.
Now IBL is often actually linked to several other concepts; that are, however, separate factors and ideas that should not be wholly linked. For example, Problem Based Learning (PBL) is often linked to inquiry-based learning, as if the two ideas were synonymous; however, PBL is actually a specific type of IBL. To put it more simply, PBL is inherently a form of IBL, but IBL is not inherently a form of PBL. Problem Based Learning is an idea that actually originated from medical schools and it is the pedagogy wherein the teacher gives the students a large complicated problem to solve, with the hopes of the students learning. Typically in medical schools, this is done by giving students hypothetical medical problems to work through as a team. Whereas, in elementary schools, PBL is usually done through situational math problems.
IBL is also often linked to the concept of Discover Based Learning (DBL). Discovery-Based Learning often has two different connotations. The first and likely more popular version of the idea is that teachers should teach by creating situations, in which students might accidentally learn something without realizing it. This idea is very popular in lower primary education. An example of DBL, within this first contextual understanding, would be to give students a water station in a Kindergarten class, with the hope that the students learn something about the basic fundamental physics of water. A secondary understanding of DBL comes from the free school movement, which sees teacher-centered learning as inherently stifling, and authoritarian. The Free School movement or “Unschooling” movement thinks all learning should be primarily self-directed and independently discovery-based. To put these two concepts in contrasting terms, traditional DBL advocates would argue that DBL should be a carefully orchestrated event, whereas Free School Movement DBL advocates would argue that all learning should be DBL.
In many ways, we can see all of these terms on a spectrum, of being more or Less Teacher Driven (LTD. As illustrated below.