Pros and Cons of Inquiry-Based Learning

The pros and cons of inquiry-based learning in the classroom

Pros and Cons of Inquiry-Based Learning

Hey, y'all! As promised, I'm back to share about inquiry-based learning in the classroom and how you can make the most of it no matter what grade level you teach. Today's topic is on the pros and cons of using inquiry-based learning in the classroom. If you missed last week's post on inquiry-based learning, you can check it out here.

Pros and cons of inquiry-based learning and instruction

First off, let’s talk about the pros:

Self-directed learning
All people, regardless of age, learn at different paces and have different questions. When using inquiry-based learning, students can go at their own pace and make connections they may not have otherwise made in a sit-and-get lecture type environment. I know many of us have time restrictions throughout our day, but the theory stands.

Hands-on learning
Inquiry is inherently hands-on, even if exploring through reading. Inquiry in math and science generally utilizes manipulatives and lab equipment that students must physically manipulate. Inquiry in social studies and history typically involves maps and artifacts. And in reading, engaging texts and writing prompts up the interest level across the board. 

Students’ brains can’t take a backseat to the learning process. They have to be engaged and active in the learning process throughout inquiry-based learning. And if structured based on students’ questions, the engagement level skyrockets. 

Inquiry-based learning is typically directly related to what students are learning in class. The inquiry process simply asks them to apply what they’ve learning and explore it in more depth. This leads to…

Critical thinking
The inquiry process can’t help but create more questions and to develop students’ higher-order thinking skills. The questions that come from my students after an inquiry-based learning unit are enough to floor even my principal and the kids’ parents!


You do have to plan ahead for inquiry. It’s not typically something to throw together last minute. The better you plan for this kind of unit, the deeper the learning your students will have.

Apathetic students
We all have them. Not everyone is engaged in everything all the time. But this is where knowing your students and what they are interested in can make all the difference. Nearly any standard can be adapted to intrigue students and appeal to their interests.

The more time you can devote to a topic, the deeper the learning will be. Unfortunately, we don’t all have unlimited time in our classes. We do the best we can with what we have and we go from there.

Standardized tests
This is less of a con for IBL and more of an observation: When you focus on inquiry-based learning, you are teaching critical thinking skills and problem solving. You are not teaching to the test. In some cases, students need to practice test taking skills and what to expect. This where you have to use your professional judgement and create some balance. Obviously, students will need problem-solving and critical thinking skills much more in life than test taking skills, but such is testing culture in the US.

Personally, I feel the pros greatly outweigh the cons as far as inquiry-based learning is concerned, but you do what works best in your classroom. Again, if you missed last week’s post on what inquiry is and the different types of inquiry-based learning, you can check it out here.

I hope this helped you gain some better understanding of inquiry and how you can use it in your classroom. Next week, we’ll be talking about real life examples of inquiry-based learning in the classroom so stay tuned.

Have a wonderful week and I’ll talk to you soon.

Stay cozy,

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