Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is a pedagogical approach in which learning is initiated by a problem or a question to be solved by youth engaged in a process of inquiry. For instance, for Pedaste and colleagues (2015), the cycle of inquiry comprises five main phases: orientation, conceptualization (questioning and hypothesis formulation), investigation (exploration/experimentation and data interpretation), conclusion, and discussion (which includes reflection and communication). According to the IBL model, youth develop these key skills during the inquiry process, even while they acquire in-depth knowledge, since it is constructed in response to authentic wondering.
The inquiries youth engage in can take on different forms: archive research, scientific experiments, field work, etc. They can also operate at different levels: in Banchi and Bell’s classification (2008), there are four levels of inquiry: confirmation inquiry, structured inquiry, guided inquiry and open inquiry. Open inquiry is certainly the most emblematic of IBL. It consists in letting youth formulate their own inquiry questions and carry out the required investigation autonomously, though they can be assisted by the teacher. The emphasis is thus on the processes of inquiry rather than on its products.