Self-Regulated Learning Skills: A Prerequisite for Inquiry Learning

“Faces of UVic Research: Allyson Hadwin” by FacesOfUVicResearch, University of Victoria is in the Public Domain

Lately, I have been reflecting on my practice, and on the development of inquiry-based learning (IBL) in my elementary classroom.  This post is a continuation of this theme and asks the question of whether, true, inquiry-based learning can occur in classrooms where too many students lack the necessary self-regulated learning skills to be independent learners.


When I talk about self-regulation skills (SRL), I refer to the Canadian Consortium for Self-Regulated Learning research-based perspectives on learning:

  • Learning is a reflective and social process that covers flexible thinking, motivation, and emotion, not just behaviour.
  • Learners are active and present in their learning, and can work towards self-determined goals.
  • Learning is a complex procedure and needs to be supported by all stakeholders including, students, peers, parents, community, and school.
  • Self-regulated learning skills are a set of procedures that are essential to developing lifelong learning in and out of school.


Inquiry-based learning has many definitions, and its core components exist in similar student-centred pedagogies such as discovery learning, constructivist learning, and problem-based learning.  I like Maaß & Artigue’s, (2013) definition of IBL, which refers to a student-centred way of teaching where students create questions, explore problems, and develop solutions:


“Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations and predictions; and communicating the results.”


There have been several classroom occurrences that have led me to question whether, true, inquiry learning is suitable for all learners.

Students who say, “I don’t know what to do!” after spending weeks discussing what inquiry is and is not, developing plans, and deepening their understanding of questioning, lack the necessary skills to be successful in this environment.

Students who cannot find suitable resources on a chosen topic, document their learning, work towards an end goal that may be several weeks away, or synthesize learning in the form of a presentation, are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to inquiry learning.

Within any given class, there must exist a ratio, a magic number, which indicates whether or not true inquiry learning can take place in a classroom.  If the number of students who lack the self-regulated learning skills of organization, motivation, questioning, recording, and observing are too great, then learning shifts from student-centred to teacher-centred.

My goal next school year is to target the development of student’s self-regulated learning skills before engaging in inquiry-based learning.  This will ensure an increased number of students will have the necessary skills to be successful in this area.



Canadian Consortium for Self-Regulated Learning.  What is SRL?  Retrieved March 14th, 2015 from

Maaß, K., & Artigue, M. (2013). Implementation of inquiry-based learning in day-to-day teaching: A synthesis. ZDM – International Jo

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