Also known as Problem-based learning or Project-based learning or PBL, Inquiry-Based Learning is an approach that has proven to increase students’ abilities to problem-solve using a student-centered delivery of instruction. While nothing can replace the time needed for systematic math and language skill acquisition, learning opportunities to apply these skills are critical for developing problem solving skills. In IBL, a “problem” or question is presented and students must use their prior knowledge and skills to build direct and meaningful correlations to solve the problem. Math, English, Social Studies, Science, Information and Communication Technology, Fine Arts are explored in combination or simultaneously in real life contexts. Through questions and questioning, teachers and students match project objectives with the Alberta Education’s Specific Learner Expectations.
Projects bring a whole new enthusiasm to the classroom. The scope and breadth of projects can vary from days to weeks to months. Because students are engaged in projects that are “real” to them – about the real world, their world – their level of concentration and application increase, as do their learning results.
Students learn best when they are actively engaged in activities that are important and meaningful to them. Accomplishing a task independently constitutes learning. Brain research indicates that emotion is the gatekeeper to learning, intellectual functioning is greatly impacted by experience, and personal meaning is the key to memory. (Alberta Initiative for Student Improvement, 2004, p11)
Authentic Assessment, or Performance Assessment, refers to evaluating students throughout the whole learning process and not just at the end of a unit or semester. Students and teachers benefit from these frequent assessment opportunities because strengths and weaknesses are identified prior to the “final exam.” Teachers use standards-based assessment rubrics to evaluate the students learning process at the initial planning stage, the application stage, and the final end-product stage.
As they say in PBL, “The Question is the Answer” because questions and questioning are the forerunners of understanding. Engaging students in the learning process has astonishing consequences: attendance and academic achievement increase, and students’ overall positive interest in school and learning skyrocket.