Inquiry Based Learning in Early Childhood

Inquiry based learning in early childhood

Inquiry based learning is making great strides in early-years child development; so what is it, and how will it contribute to your child’s growth and development?

Asking questions is one of the oldest and simplest methods for learning new things — and any parent will agree that it’s very common for children to start asking questions from a very young age. This inquisitive behavior is not only common, but also the basis for effective inquiry based learning models that are practiced in most childcare centres across Australia. 

To help you understand what is involved in inquiry based learning, how it is applied in early childhood education, and the benefits it can have for your child, we’ve written this article to provide you with clarity on what to expect when it comes to inquiry based learning. 

Table of Contents

  • What is inquiry based learning? 
  • Inquiry based learning in early childhood education
  • Different types of inquiry based learning strategies
    – The 5Es
  • The benefits of inquiry based learning
  • How to participate in inquiry based learning at home
  • Final thoughts

What is Inquiry Based Learning? 

Inquiry based learning is an education approach that uses the seeking out, exploration, and evaluation of queries for discovery and learning. Put simply, it’s all about asking questions in order to find the answers. 

As opposed to conventional classroom approaches that present new information upfront, children are given the opportunity to pursue the answers to a question or problem in inquiry based learning. This makes the learning process much more organic for learners as they are encouraged to explore different options and exercise creative and critical thinking to find the solution. 

Inquiry based learning is closely related to the scientific method, where a question or problem is investigated through research and testing to arrive at a conclusion, making it a reliable educational approach for developing logic and reasoning aspects in young minds. 

what is inquiry-based learning

Inquiry Based Learning in Early Childhood Education

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the standard for childcare education in Australia, recognises inquiry based learning as a key part of early childhood development. 

Inquiry based learning can also be found in many sections of the Australian Curriculum, especially in the teaching of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) topics. Even though it sees more use in STEM topic applications, it can also be applied to more creative learning as well, such as in arts and crafts. 

Different Types of Inquiry Based Learning Strategies

Given that inquiry based learning is an overarching educational approach, there have since been many versions of inquiry based learning strategies and models that all apply the same core principles with varying levels of steps. 

Some examples of commonly used inquiry based learning strategies in childcare centres are Telestar, Kath Murdoch Inquiry Cycle, and the 5Es.

The 5Es model 

Used in most childcare centres, the 5Es model consists of 5 keywords that educators use to guide children in their learning — engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Children are naturally inquisitive, and research has shown that learning is more effective when they engage with a topic or subject that interests them. Educators will present children with different ideas and problems to find out where their interests lie, and allow them to explore the ones that capture their interest. 

Children will be encouraged to explain their thought processes and methods, as well as what they have learnt from their interactions in play sessions. These sessions will typically conclude with a summary from educators to emphasis their learnings and help them evaluate their actions. 

The Benefits of Inquiry Based Learning

Inquiry based learning has significant benefits for early childhood learning and development. 

Multiple case studies showing the use of inquiry based learning in early childhood education indicate that it provides the following benefits:

  • Enhances critical thinking ability in finding creative solutions to problems
  • Deepens understanding of learnt concepts through self discovery
  • Increased engagement and interest in learning 
  • Encourages curiosity and inquisitiveness in seeking out answers
  • Builds collaborative and communication skills
Benefits of Inquiry Based Learning

How to Participate in Inquiry Based Learning at Home

Your child’s experience with inquiry based learning doesn’t have to end after they are home from the centre. As a parent, you can get involved with your child’s experience of inquiry based learning by taking the same approach of supporting them in their search for the answers, instead of giving it to them directly when they ask questions. 

A simple example would be if your child asks how to draw a dinosaur. Instead of drawing one for them, allow them to try it out for themselves, encouraging them to try different methods until they are happy with their final result. 

Final Thoughts

Inquiry based learning is an effective approach to childcare education that is both endorsed and supported by the Department of Education and the Early Years Learning Framework in Australia. Most childcare centres (like Eikoh Seminar) incorporate inquiry based learning into their curriculum and teaching plans to offer children the best learning experience in their formative years. 

Our educators at Eikoh Seminar have applied inquiry based learning in our educational framework for over 30 years, and are experts in providing top-quality childcare for young ones across our childcare centres in Roseville, Normanhurst, St Ives Chase, and West Ryde. If you’re looking for a reliable childcare provider that can give your child a headstart in life, enroll with us today.