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4 Specific Strategies for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning

4 Specific Strategies for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning

We recently featured a blog post that sought to help teachers get started in inquiry-based learning (IBL), including some concepts that, when implemented, can help squeeze more curiosity out of students.

But, as any veteran teacher will tell you, that is often easier said than done. It can help to employ specific strategies right away that both guide students in the methods of inquiry-based learning and allow their interests and passions to fuel their curiosity.

Questioning Strategies

Questioning is often at the heart of IBL. After all, when students are curious, they are often asking questions. But, just like any other skill, students need to be g

Start with the Question Formulation Technique™, which covers the importance of open-ended questioning and the types of question forms that will yield the desired results. From there, the work is to  simply allow enough time for questioning and provide a framework for everyone to be heard. That can be done through Socratic seminars, chalk talk (a silent activity where students share their reactions and questions on the board or with some other nonverbal method), think-pair-share, or any other strategy you can find that helps to organize in-depth discussions.

20% Time/Genius Hour

Google originated the practice of “20% time” by allowing its employees to use 20% of their work time on passion projects, even if those projects were outside of their specific job responsibilities. Gmail was a product of 20% time, which is quite a successful result.

The concept of “genius hour” is partially spun off from 20% time. The idea is to give students a reoccurring block of time to dedicate to a project of their choosing. During this time, a teacher’s job is to facilitate. If students need resources, you can try to find what they need. If they hit a lack of information, you help them research. Let students’ interests, creativity, and inspiration guide the way, and the main instruction should be: “do something amazing.” If students are never given the time to explore what interests them, how will they know what they want to do with their lives?

Self-Organized Learning Environment

For those who still like to operate under a regimented schedule, a self-organized learning environment (SOLE) may be for you. Each SOLE session is made up of three components: question, investigation, and review. The session begins with the teacher posing a ”big question,” which is exactly what it sounds like and can often be something with which professional philosophers and scientists grapple , such as: “Can artificial intelligence replace humans?” Students then spend the bulk of the time investigating their responses to the question, with the teacher’s goal being to stay as invisible as possible, only spurring on questioning or providing encouragement as needed. The class then comes back together to discussion its findings and reflect on the process just completed.


Think of a hackathon as a genius-hour competition and/or symposium. Groups of students gather to create software or hardware, usually an app, that solves a problem of their choosing. This can be done ahead of time, or wireframe, paper-based solutions can be created during the session. Then, the groups pitch their solution to a set of judges. One solution is proclaimed the winner and may earn a prize. The best part about a hackathon is that it can take the shape of whatever scale you deem appropriate. To see how one works on a larger scale, check out this plan and reflection.

Interested in more innovative strategies that you can implement in your classroom? Check out this quick start guide to project-based learning!