How To Use Inquiry-Based Learning To Increase Student Engagement


Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is one of the methods of teaching that’s gaining more and more attention. There are different ways of implementing it, but they all involve the following steps:

  • Step 1: Ask questions
  • Step 2: Look for answers
  • Step 3: Receive answers
  • Step 4: Apply the knowledge

It’s important to emphasize that these steps don’t have to be sequential. You can move back and forth between these steps. I think the reason IBL is gaining traction is that it’s effective.

The benefits of using IBL

Higher student satisfaction and engagement Improved retention rates Increased test scores Tested and proven method The goal is to get students more engaged in what they’re learning by using a variety of methods to stimulate their interest and by teaching students to be critical thinkers. 

How to implement IBL

In my experience, students are more motivated and engaged when you’re communicating with them via questions. They’re more likely to think about what they’re learning. They’ll have more questions and will feel more confident in asking them. The questions can be asked in any way that works for you, but here’s an example: “Tom, before we get started, would you like to learn more about goal setting?” This will require some time and thought. The student will have to decide if they’re going to stick with the exercise, and it’s important to teach them how to ask questions in the process. Be sure to follow them after the lesson for more discussion. If the student is confused about a concept, ask for further clarification.

Some examples of IBL

One example is Oak Ridge Leadership Development Institute, where administrators (higher-ups in organizations) ask questions about their own organizations. This approach builds empathy and trust in leaders, and more importantly, builds trust with students in their organization. Others companies are taking IBL a step further and challenging higher-ups with the task of figuring out how to achieve their goals. Then, they’re sharing their decisions with everyone else in the organization. A “Giving Businesses Advice On How To Do Their Work Better” article in the New York Times demonstrates another approach.


There are many effective ways to increase student engagement. Getting rid of homework doesn’t necessarily increase the quality of learning, and it doesn’t necessarily reduce the number of distractions. IBL is one of the ways of increasing student engagement because it requires a student to actively engage with the learning process. While this works well for most of the content that teachers teach, it’s very inefficient if a teacher wants to teach a specific subject. Teachers will be forced to use IBL methods just to teach the fundamentals of that particular subject. So while inquiry-based learning is an effective way of teaching certain subjects, it’s not the most efficient way of teaching certain subjects.

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