Back to navigation  | Flash site | About this site
Inquiry: Research and Resources

Inquiry: Research and Resources

Learning by questioning, exploration and discovery as opposed to memorization and drill.


Brigham Young University's Center for Teaching and Learning

Provides a thorough introduction of inquiry-based learning, the general features of this approach, issues that need to be addressed in order to implement inquiry-based learning in the classroom.

University of Sheffield's Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS)

Describes inquiry-based learning (IBL) and its relationship to problem-based learning. Provides an overview of IBL at the University of Sheffield in terms of their three central priorities: collaborative inquiry, information literacy and networked learning. Includes a rich collection of resource links.

McMaster's Center for Leadership in Learning

Provides definition of inquiry, inquiry teaching tips, inquiry across disciplines, and many links to resources.


Abel, C.F. (2003). Heuristics and problem solving. In Knowlton, D.S. & Sharp, D.C. (Eds.) New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 95: Problem-Based Learning in the Information Age (pp.53-58). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Focuses on the use of heuristics ('rules of thumb') in the context of problem-solving. Heuristics make students more efficient problem-solvers, and this article presents a cross-disciplinary model of heuristics in problem-solving.

King, A. (1994). Inquiry as a tool in critical thinking. In Halpern, D. (Ed.), Changing college classrooms (pp. 13-38). San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.

Proposes inquiry as an empowering force for student learning and critical thinking, suggesting it as a more effective approach than the traditional transmission model of teaching. Describes the value of student-generated questions in the inquiry classroom, with examples of different kinds of question.

Lee, V. (Ed.) (2004). Teaching and learning through inquiry: A guidebook for institutions and instructors. Sterling , VI: Stylus Publishing

Explores the purposes and process of inquiry learning, then explores how inquiry learning has been implemented across case studies in many disciplines. Includes practical advice for instructors and administrators, with attention paid to inquiry in large classes.

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Describes the foundational shift in teaching practice required to adopt a learner-centered approach, including new roles for both teacher and content. Provides useful tips for navigating obstacles while making this transition.


Bebb, H., & Pittam, G. (2004). Inquiry-based learning as a whole curriculum approach: The experiences of first-year nursing students. Learning in Health and Social Care, 3(3), 141-153.

Describes one school's experience implementing inquiry-based learning as the primary instructional method for nursing education. Emphasis is placed on the importance of preparing instructors to help students understand the differences between inquiry-based learning and 'traditional' methods, in order to facilitate students' transition to this method and maximize gains.

Brew, A. (2003). Teaching and research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry- based teaching and learning in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 22(1), 3-18.

Effort should be made to connect teaching and research in higher education. The author discusses the divide between these two tasks of professors at universities, and provides a new model for the relationship between professors and students framed in an inquiry-based approach to instruction.

Hare, W. (2004). Open-minded inquiry: A glossary of key concepts. Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, 23(3), 37-41.

A concise list of critical thinking vocabulary that students should be able to use thoughtfully and correctly. A very nice resource journaling assignments or activities in which students must look for good and bad critical thinking "in the wild."

Hu, S., Kuh, G.D., & Li, Shaoqing. (2008). The Effects of Engagement in Inquiry-Oriented Activities on Student Learning and Personal Development. Innovative Higher Education, 33, 71-81.

Using data from the College Student Experience Questionnaire research program between 1998 and 2004, this study examined the effects of student engagement in inquiry-oriented activities on a range of self-reported college outcomes. Results indicated that:

  • First, student engagement in inquiry-oriented activities in college has an overall positive effect on what students gain from attending college.
  • Second, student engagement in inquiry-oriented activities has positive effects on student gains in science and technology, vocational preparation, and intellectual development. However, it appears to have negative effects on the acquisition of general education knowledge and skills as well as personal development. One approach to foster general education outcomes might be to encourage students to reflect on the implications of their research, in whatever the field may be, for improving the welfare of disadvantaged groups and for strengthening democratic processes. To promote personal development, students could be asked to reflect on various aspects of their experience and to think about how the research process contributed to their ability to work effectively with others, helped their self-understanding, and enhanced their academic performance.
  • Third, the effects of engaging in inquiry-oriented activities on low-performing students are not as strong as on their middle-level and high-performing counterparts. Therefore, those who work with students on these activities must understand that guidance and feedback are needed in order to maximize the desired learning and personal development outcomes.

Justice, C., Rice, J., Warry, W., Inglis, S. Miller, S. and Shannon, S. (2007). Inquiry in higher education: Reflections and directions on course design and teaching methods. Innovative Higher Education, 31(4), 201-214.

A very substantive article describing how the authors designed a course on inquiry in the social sciences and what they have learned from five years of experience. Article organizes the steps of inquiry into a widely-applicable cycle model and describes the practical steps the authors took to implement each step in the cycle.

Kirschner, P.A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R.E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

Basing their argument on cognitive architecture, expert/novice differences and cognitive load, these authors argue that more often than not, minimally-guided methods of instruction (like inquiry-based learning) are not only less useful than guided approaches to learning, but also less efficient. The authors state that minimally-guided instruction is only more useful than guided instruction when students have successfully developed prior knowledge in a subject.

Looi, C-K. (1998). Interactive learning environments for promoting inquiry learning. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 27(1), 3-22.

Provides a framework for how technology can facilitate inquiry-based learning. The authors outline four roles technology can play in the inquiry process:

  • As instructive tools: interactive computer tutors can support human instructors in teaching the reasoning needed for students to excel at inquiry-based learning, which can often be complex and place heavy demands on human instructors
  • As constructive tools: technology can provide a tool for practicing inquiry skills (games) and supporting inquiry (calculators, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • As communicative tools: technology can help students work together to create ideas (e.g., Blackboard chat, etc.)
  • As situating tools: technology can help simulate real-world problems

Magnussen, L., Ishida, D., & Itano, J. (2000). The impact of the use of inquiry-based learning as a teaching methodology on the development of critical thinking. Journal of Nursing Education, 39(8), 360-364.

Explores the effects of inquiry-based learning on critical thinking skills in a sample of undergraduate nursing students. In this study, subjects' critical thinking skills were measured during their first semester and again during their last semester in their nursing program. Results indicated:

  • No overall differences were found in critical thinking scores taken during the first semester and last semester. The sample was then divided into three groups: high, medium, and low based on critical thinking scores at entry.
  • Results indicated a statistically significant increase in the low group's critical thinking scores as measured during their last semester, no change in the medium group, and a statistically significant drop for the high group.

Oliver, R. (2007). Exploring and inquiry-based learning approach with first-year students in a large undergraduate class. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(1), 3-15.

Describes an inquiry-based learning implementation in a large, first-year university class, concluding that inquiry learning was flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of students, as well as initiate them into a habit of taking responsibility for their learning. The delivery format centered around weekly, open-ended problems given to the students to promote inquiry-based learning. Results of the author's investigation into this approach indicated:

  • The majority of students reported a high level of satisfaction with this method in regard to their learning within the course, however 20% expressed negative views of the teaching method.
  • Students tended to prefer design problems over research problems.

Palmer, S. (2002). Inquiry-based learning can maximize a student's potential. Psychology Learning & Teaching, 2(2), 82-86.

Investigates the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning using students' grades as the outcome variable. Participants were students in a developmental psychology class, with the treatment condition delivered during the first semester and the control condition delivered during the second semester of the class taught via traditional methods. Results indicated that students who were taught using inquiry instruction had statistically significantly higher grades, when compared to their grades in the second semester of the course taught via traditional methods.

Windschitl, M., & Buttemer, H. (2000). What should the inquiry experience be like for the learner? American Biology Teacher, 62(5), 346-350.

A well-written piece introducing beginners to inquiry teaching. Provides a concise framework for inquiry as (1) asking a question, (2) answering the question, and (3) arguing the answer. Also provides excellent examples of inquiry projects and dialogue.