Episode 37 What is critical inquiry-based learning?

In this episode Dan explains what critical inquiry-based learning is and how it can be created in your lessons to develop the skills students need for lifelong learning.

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Hi everyone. Welcome again to another episode of the Effective Teaching podcast, where I provide you with actionable strategies that you can apply to your teaching and learning to enhance student learning and transform them into lifelong learners. I’m Dan Jackson and this week I want to answer the question

What is Critical Inquiry Based learning

The word inquiry comes from the Latin enqueren And means to ask questions

In last week’s episode, number 36 I talked about how good questions

  • start with How or why rather than what, when or who. 
  • Should be personable, using “we” “you” or “our” 
  • Relate to your course outcomes, and
  • draw on central elements to your course or subject area connecting content to life 

Today I am talking more practically about how to help students ask their own questions and foster enquiry in your classroom.

  • Wonder walls
  • Know, wonder, learn
  • What I know, what I need to know

The idea with these is that questions lead to more questions that lead to more questions and the student spirals down a rabbit hole just like any good researcher does as they find and follow the trails of evidence.

For example, a student might ask what happened to start world war II, which may lead them to reading old newspaper articles and history books written by Englishmen or Australians. But they then may ask what Germany thought led to the war or America which may lead to new insights. They then may ask how Hitler got into power in the first place and look into the relationship breakdown between Japan and America. This could then lead to more questions and further research as the cycle continues.

I want to note here that it is important as the teacher to help bring this inquiry back to the outcomes and content and to ensure a complete tangent does not take over… but as much as you can let the student follow their curiosity.

Now to inquire critically means:

  • Students need to know how to 
    • search properly – Scholar, advanced Google searches etc
    • Investigate – follow references, get notified of publications
    • Interview – ask the right questions
    • Find experts – use SM to find relevant people, contact professors at universities etc
    • Be critical – create and use criteria to determine the quality of evidence
  • To be critical requires that they can:
    • Tell who has authority on a subject and why?
    • Looking at the person behind the information
    • Is .gov or .edu good enough, which is better?
    • Consider multiple perspectives
    • Identify underlying assumptions 
    • Understanding how contextual factors influence perspectives and understandings on content
    • Reflection- identify their own preconceptions and biases

Principles that govern inquiry-based learning include:

  1. Student centred – instruction,  resources and technology are organized to support them.
  2. Learning activities focus on information-processing skills.
  3. Teachers coach the learning process, and seek to learn about their students.
  4. Emphasis is placed on evaluating information-processing skills and conceptual understanding, NOT JUST the content.

Well, that is it for this week. Thanks so much for taking some time out to listen to this episode. If you are enjoying the podcast, please take a moment to leave a review, it will help others find the podcast and decide if they should listen. If you specifically liked this episode, feel free to share it on social media or leave a comment at teacherspd.net/37

And finally, I wanted to let you know I have decided that as of Friday 1 May the TeachersPD membership that provides access to 60+ hrs of online NESA accredited PD will no longer be available for purchase. So, if you are looking for some actionable professional learning that you can access at home, on demand and complete at your own pace I want to encourage you to head to Teacherspd.net/memberships to find out more. Today Sunday 26th is actually the last day that you can register and get the $100 discount by applying the COVID19 coupon code. So, head on over and make sure that you sign up before I take down the sign up page. 

Well, I’ll chat with you next week.


  1. Maninder Kaur

    It is a great podcast shading light on how effective & engaging questions will encourage students actively to explore more about given task .

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