My Ever-Changing Mental Model of Inquiry-Based Learning

Over the past two weeks, my mental model of inquiry-based learning has developed.  One new insight I have gained is that there different types of inquiry.  Inquiry can be teacher directed, teacher-student shared or student directed.  I also learned that these types of inquiry-based learning exist on a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum is structured, teacher-directed inquiry and on the other end of the spectrum is student-centered, open inquiry.  In the middle of the spectrum is guided inquiry that is teacher-student shared.  We also learned that inquiry can be multidisciplinary (Topic C, 2018).

At the beginning of the course, I was familiar with the 5E Model but was unsure if it was an inquiry-based model.  I learned that the 5E model is indeed one way of creating inquiry-based learning experiences, but not the only way.  I also discovered that the 5E Model can be used with other content areas other than science.  For example, Discovery Education provides inquiry-based units in their Science and Social Studies Techbooks that follow the 5E Model.  The Techbooks from Discovery Education are great resources and I highly recommend them.  I am looking forward to using them in my classroom next year.  I feel that the 5E Model falls more on the teacher-directed side of the inquiry-based learning spectrum and that there are a variety of ways to implement inquiry-based learning.

I also discovered that inquiry doesn’t always have to be hands-on.  For example, inquiry can occur through the Socrative Method as evidenced through Urban Academy‘s approach to inquiry.  In this instance, the teachers facilitate discussion about a text that the students are reading.  They use this approach in a variety of courses including literature and history.

One burning question that still remains in my mind is how do Project-Based Learning and Inquiry-Based Learning fit together? I am still trying to figure out their similarities and differences between the two methods.  For example,  I was beginning to think that Inquiry-Based Learning is a type of Project-Based learning.  It would seem, however, that inquiry can exist without the context of a project as evidenced by the inquiry approach discussed previously at Urban Academy. It would also seem plausible that some projects could occur without inquiry.

How do you think Project-Based Learning and Inquiry-Based Learning fit together?  Please share your ideas by commenting.  Looking forward to reading your ideas!


Newell, Beth (Producer). (2012). Inquiry-Based Teaching Series  [Video series]. New York, NY:      The Teaching Channel Retrieved from:

Topic C: Types of Inquiry Based Learning. (2018)  Retrieved from:

4 thoughts on “My Ever-Changing Mental Model of Inquiry-Based Learning

  1. Karen Johnson

    I look at pbl as a big umbrella and within the lessons, inquiry based lessons will fall. I have found success by incorporating inquiry lessons into a problem based learning approach and it has really facilitated deeper connections and understanding with students.

    1. caitbajgier Post author

      Thank you for you so much for your reply! I am definitely feeling more confident as the semester progress that I am seeing how PBL, Inquiry-Based Learning and STEAM all fit together! Thank you for your support!

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