Inquiry learning is an umbrella concept for creating learning environments for students which allow them to discover answers themselves instead of being told the answers (such as via lecture). There are many variants and categories; problem-based learning is one specific type of inquiry learning that focuses on solving problems without rigid controls or directions.
Other types of inquiry learning might include:
- Research projects
- Field work
- Case studies
Individual inquiry projects vary by how much structure and guidance is given to students. Truly open inquiry involves the creation of questions, designing procedures, collecting data, and disseminating results. In other words, the performing of actual research in the discipline. More guided or structured versions are possible, where student choice is limited and some of the material, such as the question, may be provided for them.
There is some controversy about the effectiveness of inquiry learning. Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) found that constructivists cite each other but not empirical evidence, and argue instead for guided learning.