Be the Best at Inquiry Guided Instruction in the Online Classroom


  1. What is inquiry in the classroom?
  2. What are the 4 types of inquiry?
  3. What are the 5 steps of the inquiry model?
  4. How to implement inquiry guided instruction in the online classroom?


You may have heard about inquiry guided instruction in the online classroom. This teaching technique is hugely popular with students because it follows a different structure that is more engaging. So, if you’ve ever wondered “What is guided inquiry-based learning?” and “What are the steps of inquiry process?” stick around and you’ll find out. Once you test this out on your students, you’ll be impressed by the results.student in online class

What is inquiry in the classroom?


As a tutor, we know you are always looking for the best ways to help your students. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as everyone has their own learning style. However, there are some methods of teaching that are more effective than others, in general. 

There are four different types of inquiry-based instruction. We’ll take a quick look at them all but today we’re going to focus on inquiry guided instruction. 

Whether you use inquiry guided instruction in the online classroom or in a face-to-face setting, it usually delivers brilliant results. ✨ That’s because the focus is on the student rather than the teacher. It’s a more modern approach to teaching where the teacher or tutor becomes a facilitator and the student has more responsibility placed on them for learning.

Inquiry in the classroom is about discovery. It requires students to ask a question (or respond to one), form a hypothesis, then work through and develop their own response. It doesn’t just rely on the teacher or tutor providing the information with little interaction, as is often the standard approach. All of this happens in the usual class time too. 

How is inquiry related to research?

Students must do their own research in response to the initial inquiry to formulate an answer. The teacher is there to guide students and the level of scaffolding provided depends on the type of inquiry-based instruction chosen. A couple of the stages of the inquiry learning process will involve research and possibly adjusting the question and/or hypothesis as the students move through the exercise. 

What are the reasons why inquiry based learning is useful to students?

It’s a great way to kickstart a class because it gets students thinking. It empowers students by placing them at the centre of the lesson. It instills autonomy and discipline in students by thinking for themselves and being given a greater level of respect and responsibility. They benefit from discovering the solution on their own and are more likely to want to continue learning.

Inquiry based learning is also a fun way to learn. This encourages students to learn more because they will naturally want to keep investigating. Students also learn many other transferable skills at the same time such as communicating their ideas. 


What are the 4 types of inquiry?


There are four types or levels of inquiry. The amount of influence a teacher has in the initial process varies. Open inquiry places the most emphasis on the student and teachers need to gauge the level of enthusiasm and confidence a student has on a particular topic before attempting this method. 

  • Confirmation inquiry

Confirmation inquiry offers the most guidance to students as teachers will give the results to a question or problem upfront. Students then need to make their results align to the correct answer.

  • Structured inquiry

Structured inquiry is when a teacher asks a question upfront and students have to come to the answer by working through a given procedure or set of steps provided.

  • Guided inquiry

Guided inquiry is when a teacher provides a question upfront but students will have to come up with their own procedure for working out the answer. We will look at guided inquiry in more detail later on, including some examples of how this method works as an inquiry guided instruction in the online classroom.

  • Open inquiry

Open inquiry is when students develop their own questions and work out the procedure to come up with the answer on their own. As you can see, open inquiry requires a lot of work on behalf of the student as well as a certain amount of pre-existing knowledge. 


What are the 5 steps of the inquiry model?


Let’s look at what are the five elements of inquiry based instruction? This will also help to provide you with an indication of why it’s a powerful teaching method. According to Researchgate, the five steps of the inquiry model can be categorised as:

  1. Orientation
  2. Conceptualisation
  3. Investigation 
  4. Conclusion
  5. Discussion

As the report suggests, there are many terms used to explain the steps involved in the inquiry model. They found significant overlap across other articles they compared. Therefore, you may have heard “Orientation” expressed as “Engage”, “Theory” or numerous other terms, and other terminology used for the other steps. Don’t worry, what’s important is the process and how the students will be actively participating. 👍

Let’s look at each stage of the cycle in more detail. 

1. Orientation

This is where the student is engaged in the activity and the teacher introduces the topic. The teacher explains what is expected of them and may provide theory. 

2. Conceptualisation

Either the teacher provides the question or has the student come up with their own question, depending on what type of inquiry instruction they are using in the exercise. 

The student then hypothesises an outcome and begins to research, continuing to ask questions as they arise based on their findings. This involves brainstorming and starting to look for information on the web to either support their prediction or to form a new hypothesis as they continue researching. 

3. Investigation 

The student then analyses the data or information that they have collected. They can continue researching and recording data in this phase and if an experiment needs to be conducted it will be done now. They begin to form their explanation or answer. 

4. Conclusion

In this phase, the student refines their theory or their conclusion. They look to draw parallels and finally decide on their answer. 

5. Discussion

In this phase, they share their findings. The student must explain how they came to their conclusion or realisation and reflect on the process used to arrive there. They can debate this with the teacher and other peers in a classroom situation. 

As you can see, there is a heavy reliance on the student to do their own work. Rather than the teacher or tutor simply providing them with a “correct” or “incorrect” at the end of the exercise, the student has to determine for themself how they went in the activity. 


How to implement inquiry guided instruction in the online classroom?


If you’re wondering “How do you do inquiry based learning virtually?” here are some pointers you can use as a tutor. It lends itself very well to online research. For this reason, the guided inquiry method can work very well online. 🌐

What is guided inquiry method?

To recap what is the third type (or level) of inquiry-based learning, following guided inquiry, you would give your student a question that they need to answer. 

What is the purpose of guided inquiry?

The purpose of guided inquiry is to spark curiosity in a student’s mind and immerse them in the topic they are learning. It promotes critical thinking rather than merely listening and rote learning. This better develops a student’s understanding and appreciation of the material or concept.

It’s a great idea to start with a guided inquiry question at the beginning of a class. This will involve your student and wake up their brain, throwing them into the topic you plan on focusing on in class.

What are some examples of inquiry based learning?

Some examples include using case studies or research projects. For example, you could play a relevant video at the beginning of the class and then give your student an open question. This sets the scene for the lesson of the day. The video has to be about a topic that interests your student. 🥰 As the tutor, you would then pose a question to your student. 

You can also build on previous classes but ask a question that will require deep thinking and investigation to put together an answer. For example, you could ask “how could we make mass food production more sustainable?” or “how is water quality measured?”. Your student would then need to find appropriate resources online to formulate their answer. When they report their answer to you, then you can both discuss its merits and how the process went. 

Of course, the types of questions you ask are going to vary by subject. If you have a maths student you might like to ask who invented a certain formula and how they came up with it. Your student could research how the formula works and share an example back to you. Then you can follow up by working through exercises together for the remainder of the class. 

If you are teaching a language class, you could ask which words are shared between the language you’re teaching and English and how to identify them? For example, in Spanish, there are approximately 100 words that end in “or” that are the same in English, and words ending in “ion” also usually share the same meaning.

You can also experiment with the other types of inquiry where you provide even more scaffolding or less (where your student identifies their own question that interests them that they want to work through). Be as creative as you like and always keep your student’s level in mind and how confident they are regarding whether they need more or less guidance.

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