The FKL Core Curriculum will engage students in inquiry or inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning is based upon a philosophy of education that promotes the development of a questioning, critical, socially-engaged intelligence. It draws on a long history of theoretical and practical work that involves what John Dewey called "the primary interests of the learner," being investigation, communication, construction, and expression or reflection.

Inquiry or inquiry-based learning is a student-centered, active learning approach that focuses on activities in which the learner extracts meaning and acquires knowledge from experience. It typically includes a process that provides opportunities for learners to engage in the practices of life beyond the classroom, using the tools and methods of scientists, artists, researchers, problem solvers, or citizens in society. The intent is for the learners to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them through active learning.

Inquiry is a critical process that questions received knowledge, structures and processes, including its own. It invites a continual questioning of what it means to teach and learn, what counts as knowledge, and what meaning or action follows from learning. For educators, inquiry emphasizes the development of questioning skills and the nurturing of critical thinking and attitudes that will enable individuals to continue seeking knowledge beyond the classroom.

In the classroom, inquiry requires student engagement with the content and can take many forms. Inquiry-based learning may include a continuing cycle or spiral of inquiry (e.g., ask, investigate, create, discuss, and reflect) that engages students through participation, problem solving, and reflection. Inquiry processes should enable learning to occur as a function of the activity, the context, and the culture in which it occurs. Because knowledge is constantly increasing and thus the knowledge base for disciplines is expanding and changing, individuals need to develop the skills and inquiring attitudes necessary for generating and examining new knowledge.

There are several different approaches to inquiry, which include:

  • Structured inquiry - The teacher provides students with a hands-on problem to investigate, as well as the procedures and materials, but does not inform them of expected outcomes. Students are to discover relationships between variables or otherwise generalize from data collected.
  • Guided inquiry - The teacher provides only the materials and problem to investigate. Students devise their own procedure to solve the problem.
  • Open inquiry - This approach is similar to guided inquiry, but students also devise their own problem to investigate.
  • Learning cycle - Students are engaged in an activity that introduces a new concept. The teacher then provides the formal name for the concept. Students take ownership of the concept by applying it in a different context.
  • Education by inquiry often requires collaborative efforts involving students and faculty. Interdisciplinary approaches work well in inquiry-based learning. Undergraduates are encouraged to explore diverse fields to complement or contrast with their major fields. Mentoring and internships can be developed, offering collaborative learning experiences involving undergraduate, graduate students, and faculty as researchers.