Inquiry Learning

How to Quickly Assess the Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based Learning

Get great results with these simple questions.

With all the discussion about inquiry-based learning happening in education circles, the most common one addresses how effective it is. If teachers are going to invest their time in an instructional strategy, they want to know it gets results. So as to the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning, how exactly do we measure it?

Before we begin, let’s remember that there are plenty of variables to consider when gauging the benefits of any teaching practice. These include, but are not limited to, things like:

  • The learning task
  • The learning environment
  • Teacher/student behaviour, personality, and ability
  • Instructional style
  • Expectations and outcomes

This time around we’ll suggest some benchmarks you can use to quickly assess the effectiveness of inquiry-based learning in your own classroom on an ongoing basis. We’ll also present the ideal way to learn all you need to know for you and your learners to enjoy maximum success with it.

Key Questions for Assessing the Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry and curiosity are the foundation of all learning. Without curiosity, and an inquiry process to satisfy it, learning doesn’t exist. 

The Wabisabi Inquiry Cycle provides a natural intuitive pathway for deeper exploration and joyful discovery. If inquiry-based learning is working, your learners will follow this path largely on their own, taking responsibility for what they discover and learn at every step.

In inquiry-based learning, learners will employ different skills in the various stages of the learning journey.

For the Wabisabi Inquiry Cycle, the stages are:

  • The Global Concept
  • The Essential Question
  • The 4 C’s
    • Curious
    • Connect
    • Communicate
    • Create

As you observe the inquiry journey, make observations and ask questions at each stage. For the purposes of this article we’ll call them “QA” (quick assessment) questions. From there you will have a baseline from which to craft more in-depth assessments and make fine tuning adjustments as you facilitate inquiry-based learning for your students.

The Global Concept

This refers to the broader purpose for the inquiry, or the “big idea.” Often students will display a deep interest in the issues of the world they live in. This is the time to connect real-world scenarios to things that are relevant to them personally.

QA questions:

  • What are the issues your learners believe are important and why?
  • How do they feel these issues affect them?
  • How do they speak about them (both on their own and with others)?
  • Do they feel these are issues with possible solutions?
  • How do they want to go about discovering more?

The Essential Question

The essential question drives inquiry forward. It’s the focus of the lesson, and from this more specific or “herding” questions arise. Pay close attention to the questions that are beginning to swirl around in their conversations as they begin to explore Global Concepts more thoroughly.

QA questions:

  • What kinds of questions are learners asking about the Global Concept?
  • What do they want to know?
  • How are they formulating their questions?
  • What other questions are happening as a result?
  • What do they know (or believe they know) about the issue they are questioning?
  • What do they know are facts, and what are the opinions?
  • What don’t they know and how could they find out?
  • Where have they seen this problem before?
  • How can they restate or rephrase their questions to deepen investigative potential?


As we stated earlier, if there is no connection to learning through curiosity, then learning won’t happen. We encourage curiosity in our learners as educators, and encourage the fearless thinking that sustains powerful lines of inquiry.

QA questions:

  • What are your learners curious about and why?
  • How are they investigating the problem (by traditional and digital sources)?
  • What are the primary conversations like in nature (introspective, solutions-focused, philosophical, etc.)?
  • How can you make them even more curious about the topic?


Connection is about having ideas and gaining new understandings. It’s the “Aha!” moments that happen in all learning. This often occurs when learners have made an association between the topic and something that deeply resonates with them.

QA questions:

  • How are learners connecting the topic with what they know?
  • How does this enhance their understanding?
  • What do learners understand more now that they didn’t before?
  • How has this connection influenced their drive to find a solution?


Part of the learning journey requires learners at some point to communicate their understanding of what is being taught. This action occurs in both the Dream and Deliver phases of Solution Fluency.

QA questions:

  • What are your learners’ unique visions for a solution?
  • What’s their best-case scenario for the end goal?
  • Why do they feel this is the best answer?
  • How has their language and expression changed around the topic?
  • How does this demonstrate how well they understand the topic?


At this stage, your learners both create and present the products and solutions that express their understanding and answer the curricular challenges. These are done using mediums they are familiar with and that speak to their inherent interests and creative talents.

QA questions:

  • What solution do learners truly want to create and how will they deliver it?
  • Is it a SMART solution (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely)?
  • How do they plan to map their process?
  • How do they deal with challenges along the way?
  • How will they/you measure the project’s success?
  • What went well, and what didn’t?
  • How do learners feel they could improve their efforts and outcomes in the future? 
  • How can they apply their results to similar problems? 

Dive Deeper into Inquiry-Based Learning

You’ve got the drive for inquiry-based learning, and now we want to give you the tools. For everything you want and need to know about IBL instruction, implementation, and assessment, the best choice is our full-day onsite workshop Foundations of Inquiry-Based Learning.

This dynamic full-day workshop will deeply engage you in an exploration of the fundamental elements of inquiry, from questioning to creating authentic learner-centered inquiry that connects to clear curricular outcomes. Find out more below or contact us to reserve a spot—but hurry, because they’re filling up fast.


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