"Knowing the answers will help you in school. Knowing how to question will help you in life."
~ Warren Berger

How often were you told 'curiosity killed the cat' growing up?

So often, we were discouraged from asking questions... Probably all the time!

Even now, as parents, we get to the 'why' stage with our kids, and we are bombarded with a million unending questions. And instead of embracing them, we often get frustrated, irritated, and impatient.

We live in a world that is busy and one that seems to prefer conformity over questions.

But this is detrimental to our kids and us. We put their learning in a box and curb their desire to explore the world around them.

This is why inquiry-based learning is so essential in education today.

Marko Koskinen talked to us about his innovative learning platform that helps students develop modern skills through inquiry-based learning.

This Galileo InspirEd Clubhouse Event event was all about inquiry-based learning and how it offers a deeper understanding of a subject while helping to engage students in problem-solving and inquiry activities.

Marko has found a way to introduce an inquiry-based learning approach that empowers students while still meeting the national curriculum requirements.

He gave us a better understanding of how this learning experience encourages students to follow their own curiosity and undertake this more free learning process.

Student using ipad in inquiry-based learning, holding up to her ear

What Is Inquisitive Learning?

As humans, we are born with an innate curiosity. That very ability allows us to navigate the world around us.

It is a vital part of the learning process and informs our cognitive skills, conceptual understanding, and ability to form conclusions.

Inquiry-based learning is based on the idea that learning is more meaningful when intrinsically motivated.

Marko said, "I'm trying to avoid all kinds of external motivation" when implementing inquiry-based learning on his platform. For example, he says, "I think as soon as the motivation shifts from inner to outer motivation, the quality of learning drops drastically."

Inquiry-based learning is active learning, allowing students to build on their prior knowledge through inquiry exercises and letting them ask their own questions.

Students learn through an inquiry process that allows them to develop questions and conduct investigations in subject areas that interest them.

This general curiosity is focused on a guided discovery by a facilitator who can track student progress while allowing for maximum student engagement and exploration.

Inquiry-Based Learning and Curriculum

In the case of Koskinen's platform, Phoenix School, there are no teachers at all. Instead, it is based entirely on the students' learning at home with their parents.

"My goal was to create a system which offers the most freedom to the students as possible while still fulfilling the national curriculum."

This meant thinking creatively, and he took inspiration from the principles of democratic education where "students are a part of the governing of the school."

"So my solution was to just go through all of the national textbooks and create questions and assignments. So it took me two years to do that and build the platform".

With this kind of inquiry-based instruction ", the questions can be tough and very broad. That was my aim, that the questions can be answered in many ways," says Marko.

This kind of inquiry learning gives students the freedom to engage in an investigation process as they answer the various questions on the platform. Students can evaluate information and hone their critical thinking skills through hands-on activities or thought-provoking questions.

"The main idea was to give them as much free time outside formal education as possible. Because I think many of the things that are included in the curriculum, even though they might be interesting, and some are sometimes useful, in general, there is just a lot of knowledge which you learn and then forget".

Why Should You Be Inquisitive?

Girl looking out the window inquisitively
Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence

The ability to formulate questions, learn about global society, and discover the joy of learning all comes from having more curiosity.

When you are inquisitive, you actively use your brain, allowing yourself to be open to new ideas.

This is particularly important for students as research shows that being curious is beneficial for learning and has emotional and social benefits. Emily Campbell lists a few of the benefits of curiosity:

1) It helps us learn about our constantly changing world.

2) Curious people are happier and more positive.

3) Curiosity leads to deeper learning.

4) Being curious about others allows you to be more empathetic.

5) Showing genuine curiosity in others can strengthen your relationship.

What Are The Five Examples of Inquiry-Based Learning?

When Koskinen explained why he chose inquiry-based learning, he said, "my idea was that it would help the student build modern skills like information acquisition, critical thinking and the ability to find essential information and basically use their own thinking in the process."

There are five E's to remember when talking about inquiry-based learning.

1) Engage

2) Explore

3) Explain

4) Elaborate

5) Evaluate

Five E's of Inquiry-Based Learning
Image from Knowledge Quest

John Dewey's Inquiry-Based Pedagogy and Project-Based Learning

John Dewey was a psychologist and education reformer who believed that students should be at the center of learning.

He said that students could link new information to previously learned knowledge through experiences based in the real world.

Student learning happens the best when students can have a hands-on inquiry activity. This can happen inside and outside the classroom.

Dewey thought that learning was not just for students but also for many educators. He believed learning was collaborative, and a guided inquiry by both teacher and student would result in more valuable learning.

Inquiry-based learning goes hand in hand with project-based learning.

These concepts encourage students to immerse themselves in the learning process and not just in the content presented to them.

As Koskinen describes, "take History, for example. There could be a question like what led to the Second World War? And the student is free to research as much as she likes and answer in the way she likes".

Galileo's clubs use project-based learning to encourage collaboration, creativity, and a love of learning.

Inquiry-based learning is often used with STEM subjects but taking a project-based approach means learning-based inquiry can evolve into a meaningful learning experience for students.

Three students and teacher using technology in an inquiry-based lesson

What Are the Four Types of Inquiry?

1) Confirmation Inquiry

This type of inquiry-based teaching focuses on the question given to the students. They are also given the method, and the goal is to confirm the result.

This method allows students to reinforce their existing knowledge and use their skills to confirm the answer.

2) Structured Inquiry

This is a more rigid form of inquiry activity and is a teaching method that involves students following a specific procedure as laid out by the teacher.

It is teacher-driven but can allow for more make way for guided inquiry.

3) Guided Inquiry

Guided inquiry engages students as they are given the question but are left to design a method and test their theory. This kind of inquiry lesson allows the students freedom while the teacher offers support and guidance.

4) Open Inquiry

Students develop essential skills through open-ended inquiry-based instruction.

Students learn to formulate their own questions, design an investigation and present their findings. From a teacher's point of view, it is a hands-off approach that is about moving students towards independence and critical thinking.

Koskinen talks about Sugata Mitra and his self-organized learning environment concept.

"You just have a classroom, and you have a circle where you decide which question you want to find out about today. The questions come from the students, and then they research, and then they come back together again and tell him what they found in small groups".

Why Is Inquiry-Based Learning Important?

Learning is more meaningful when it is personal.

Students will engage more deeply with the content when they are interested in what they are learning.

When students feel empowered in their learning choices and apply what they have learned, the information becomes tangible.

Like the recent Hackathon, Galileo students took part in. They created a question or identified a problem, designed a method, and developed solutions to the problem.

Our world is changing rapidly, and our children need to be ready to face challenges, handle conflict, solve problems and innovate new ideas.

Inquiry-based instruction allows learning to happen inside and outside the classroom. Learning is about so much more than facts and information.

It is the ability to think critically, act empathetically, and be creative.

Koskinen's vision for the future of education is an international boarding school based on this learning style.

"It's a place where people actively try to solve global issues. There are young people involved. It's a community where people live, and so it becomes an intimate and meaningful community".

Is Inquiry-Based Learning the Way of the Future?

Yes, it is.

...Along with other forms of learning that encourage free-thinking, creativity, and nurturing skills. The skills students will need for the future.

Learning should be holistic and focus on what it means to be human rather than the regurgitation of dry facts.

What makes us all unique is our ability to think differently.

What a gift to share ideas and knowledge with others to solve the problems we are all facing? What a gift to think about more than just ourselves and understand what it means to be a global citizen?

By allowing our children the space and freedom to discover their passions and interests, we will enable them to grow into adults who will be change-makers.

Let's help our kids become people who question and fight for change.

In the wise words of Bernard Baruch, "millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why."