Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Changing Views on Inquiry Based Learning

In my last blog post I left you with this statement, “Despite all of this I am still left wondering how successful the IBL process is when it comes to differentiation.   I can picture making the assignments and activities more difficult for your higher achieving students, I just am left wondering how to accommodate for those students who have pretty severe learning disabilities and accommodations on their IEP’s.”  Well I feel as if that question has been answered. 

                As I continued to explore and gain a deeper understanding of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) I stumbled upon the three types of inquiry possible within a IBL lesson.  They are Teacher-Directed, Teacher-Student Shared and Student-Directed.  As I wrote my last post I was unaware of the different types of direction that can go into a IBL lesson.  I was focused entirely on the student directed model, which is why I had my fears and doubts about the use of IBL in a classroom that has a number of different ability levels.  Yet, if the teacher where to develop a lesson that could be both student directed, for those highly motivated and high achieving students and also provide accommodations through the other two models, then differentiation in the classroom would be both easy and highly beneficial to the students.

                In a student directed approach the students could explore the question how they wanted and reach their own conclusions.  However, for this to be successful the students must have the necessary process skills in order to succeed.  These skills have been identified in a number of places, but I have found those skills outlined by the Center for Educational Policy Research to be the most helpful.  This list provides readers with the process skills that are necessary to succeed in today’s colleges.  While these are important skills to have as students, it is necessary to understand that some, if not most, of our students are not at this point yet.  That is why the other two types of lessons available to IBL are so important.

                With teacher-directed or teacher-student shared there is the possibility of differentiating the instruction to fit the individual needs of the student.  This is exactly what my fear was in my prior blog.  By having more guidance from the teacher, or other students, those students who need the extra support will be able to receive it.  This scaffolding approach to IBL allows all students in the classroom to pursue the passion for learning, which all humans have.  The accommodations that can be made could be as simple as a graphic organizer for the student to the teacher picking the resources and providing all of the materials for the student.  Despite the level of accommodations provided, the student is still receiving the benefits of IBL and all of the soft skills that go along with this type of activity. 

                I leave you today feeling that my previous questions about differentiation look silly and childish in retrospect.  With a successful IBL lesson differentiation is built into the activity and required to take place.  So those students who are off and running on every project can race ahead and explore whatever they find, while those who are slower can be provided the resources and support they need to succeed.  Hopefully you have found this entry helpful and I encourage you to try IBL in your classroom.


Conley , D. Association of American Universities, (2003). Understanding university success. Retrieved from Center for Educational Policy Research website:


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