Inquiry Learning

What Are the Four Phases of Inquiry-Based Learning?

This is how IBL make real learning happen.

The classroom power of inquiry-based learning is undeniable. Nothing is more natural to meaningful learning than curiosity and inquiry. It is the spirit of both that passionate educators strive to nurture in their students. 

In order to do this, there are specific phases of inquiry-based learning that must be in place. Since we’re discussing solid stages that properly facilitate this type of transformational learning, it’s best we refer to the Wabisabi Inquiry Cycle. Let’s find out more below.

The Four Phases of Inquiry-Based Learning

The Wabisabi Inquiry Cycle includes four distinct phases of inquiry-based learning. We call them the 4 Cs:

  • Curious
  • Connect
  • Communicate
  • Create

Beginning with a big idea, or what we call the Global Concept, we formulate an essential question around it with our learners that sets the cycle in motion. As learners are inspired to be curious about where the question leads them, they begin to make connections between concepts both known and unknown to them.

Once the connections to the curriculum and what’s outside it are made, the time comes to communicate essential understandings. Our learners do this by creating original products and solutions that speak to them and their interest and abilities.

Inquiry-based learning is learning in its most natural state. Inquiry is the very foundation of what learning is all about. We have a big idea and a burning question that drives us to find the answer. Through the application of these four phases, we bring real learning home to our students.


Curiosity is the foundation of any meaningful learning experience. We seek to learn because we are curious, and want to discover more. There are lots of intriguing ways to lead students to being curious about what you teach. 

Questions for this stage:

  • What do I want my learners to be curious about?
  • What are the key concepts or areas of content in the curriculum that learners are expected to master? 
  • How will I inspire curiosity in my learners about these things?
  • How can we formulate questions that drive our curiosity?


Connection is realization. It is the awareness our learners have of the relationship between ideas and bits of information. From this awareness comes the synthesis of new insights and understandings. This is how the concepts in our curriculum enter the world of our learners. We can’t teach this, as it is the instinctual “Oh, I get it now” moments that teachers so love to watch students experience.

Questions for this stage:

  • What are the connections learners can make that have personal relevance for them? 
  • How will I connect to learner context and relevance?
  • How do these connections change how learners feel about the content?
  • How can these connections be used to inspire them to want to know more?


In order for learning to be assessed properly, the intended outcomes of the curriculum have to be demonstrated somehow. This is why we fashion products and solutions in the course of our learning—to help us understand, internalize, and communicate the crucial aspects of what’s being taught.

Questions for this stage:

  • What are the essential understandings of the curriculum, and beyond the curriculum, that learners will take and communicate in the world?
  • How will they communicate their understandings?


Our learners crave opportunities to showcase their inherent creative talents in countless forms. Creation is the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Today, creativity and the arts through which they are expressed are more fundamental than ever to the shaping of our changing world. This is the all-important stage of the inquiry process where students get hands-on with the learning.

Questions for this stage: 

  • How can I provide rewarding outlets through which my learners can express themselves fully?
  • What are the artifacts we will create?

How Inquiry Transforms Learning

With just these four phases of inquiry-based learning, and an essential question to help facilitate them, you will bring some truly transformative learning to your classrooms. And if you want to really go to the next level, you’ll learn all about this and much more in our workshop series Foundations of Inquiry-Based Learning.

Everything you want and need to know about inquiry-based learning—from understanding and development, to implementation and assessment—you’ll learn at this workshop. This is a full-day experience that explores the fundamental elements of inquiry, from questioning to creating authentic learner-centered inquiry that connects to clear curricular outcomes. Find out more below, and join us for some dynamic professional learning.

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