Inqiry Based Learning in STEM Education: Biology

Animal Footprints

Probably you have all seen them in the sand, soil or snow; animal footprints! But what can they tell us?

Have a look at the drawing below. Based on what you know about animals, footprints, food chains, competition and ecological relationships; what do you observe? 







IBL in this Example

Characteristics of IBL

How to use IBL in STEM Ed

This task encourages both creativity and the ability to interpret what is observed. The goal is to connect to students' environmental knowledge and make sense of the food chain. The task has not only one correct solution, but quite different ones. The students' ideas and assumptions provide a good starting point for argumentation and discussion.

IBL is characterized as follows: Students…

  • ... create their own scientifically oriented questions.
  • ... give priority to evidence in responding to questions.
  • ... formulate explanations based on evidence.
  • ... connect explanations to scientific knowledge.
  • ... communicate and justify explanations.

Conclusion: IBL tasks are self differentiating tasks


Usually the students process an IBL task as follows (Research Cycle):

1. Formulate a specific question (Ask)

2. Use the existing knowledge to understand the problem and investigating possible solutions (Investigate)

3. Create new findings based on the previous findings (Create)

4. Discuss the findings (Discuss)  

5. Evaluate the result and, if necessary, improve the solution (Reflect)

Tasks presented…

• Are accessible by all students

• Provide achievable challenges

• Develop fluency, understanding and processes

• Offer multiple entry points

• Involve using a range of methods and strategies

• Value the process rather than the answer


The role of a teacher in using IBL in STEM education

• Looks into and challenges student thinking and reasoning

• Instigates the evaluation and communication of strategies

• Uncovers misconceptions

• Supports student to learn from mistakes

• Provokes and stimulates the exploration of alternative routes

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