Inquiry-Based Learning • Reflecting on the Process

Self-assessment is a vital part of learning. At the end of an inquiry project, it's important for students to reflect on what they've accomplished and define their own learning outcomes. Students can gain significant insights about both their subject and their learning process at the end of a project through content reflection, process reflection, and synthesis of the two to arrive at new knowledge and awareness.

To help your students reflect on the content of their projects, start by asking what they found out about their initial research question. Students can then see how their inquiry was shaped (and maybe even limited) by the way they posed that first question and talk about how it changed as they conducted research and gained more information. For example, a student who began a research task about the civil rights movement with a question about Martin Luther King Jr.'s march in Selma, Alabama, may describe how early research helped him realize he ultimately wanted to pose a deeper question about the evolution of nonviolent protest.

From there, students can reflect on how each step in their research process revealed not just new information, but new complications about the subject itself. They can think about the sources they discovered, how useful they were—and might be again in the future—and how they now view their subject differently.

Reflection on process, on the other hand, allows students to examine how they learned during their inquiry project. This type of reflection is especially productive if students have been using key tools throughout the project itself, like inquiry logs, journals, research maps, and worksheets. Ask students about their process with questions like, "What tools were most helpful to you?" "Did you talk with others about your ideas or need more quiet time alone?" "Where did your focus or interest seem to diminish and how did you get it back?"

After reflecting on both the content of their project and the process they went through, students can synthesize their insights from both areas by asking practical questions like, "What does this tell me about the way I learn best?" "What are my research strengths?" "What will I do differently the next time I research a new subject?" Answering these questions can help students strengthen their thinking skills and apply those skills to other classes and assignments.

When students identify the content of their new knowledge, reflect on their process, and synthesize the two to arrive at insights about the way they learn, they can become more self-directed, confident, and motivated learners.

MLA Citation "Inquiry-Based Learning: Reflecting on the Process." School Library Connection, July 2019,

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Entry ID: 2214577

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