How inquiry based learning is changing early education

How inquiry based learning is changing early education

Our world is rapidly changing and the use of inquiry and STEM in our everyday practices is becoming increasingly important. The development of technology is predicted to create up to 50 million jobs globally by 2030 (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017). It is believed that the future workforce will require skills and abilities that are often not part of the traditional school’s curriculum and programs. Instead, having emotional intelligence (EI) and abilities such as reasoning skills, flexibility, creativity, resilience, and the ability to problem solve collaboratively will be essential.

The meaning of ‘knowing’ has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it.”


– National Research Council, 2007

Sydney Early Education Centres (SEEC) use an inquiry-based learning approach to help develop each child’s skills and dispositions needed for life now and for the future. We use inquiry learning to enable children to be authors of questions, builders of theories and co-constructors of knowledge. Our aim is to promote and support each child’s desire and abilities to be life-long learners. 

What is inquiry-based learning?

‘Inquiry-based learning is an educational approach that focuses on the investigation and problem-solving’ (Australian Curriculum, DESE). Instead of giving the children all the answers and presenting the information, teachers instead pose a question or problem to spark the children’s curiosity and excitement to find the answer. Teachers support children through inquiry led learning to find the answer by empowering children to shape their own learning through various means like using technology, asking more questions, researching in books and building a collaborative approach to allow children to work together and brainstorm possibilities.

Children are natural explorers; they are curious about their surroundings and have many questions. It is important to be there to support children when they have this sense of inquiry to scaffold them and build their knowledge. This is where inquiry-based learning comes into play; it is when we have a question that sparks further inquiry, like ‘Why is the earth round?’ 

Inquiry-based learning enhances a child’s sense of identity, by allowing them to be part of their learning, through their unique interests and strengths. Children can be creative and lead their learning through investigation and further research. When we collaborate with children, we spark their inquiry and allow for them to have a sense of belonging by having their interests and questions researched collaboratively.

What does inquiry-based learning look like at SEEC?

We believe that children are capable creative citizens and active participants in their own learning. Our environments and programs are designed to inspire exploration, creativity, questioning, and to help make meaning of the world.

Our educators believe in the importance of being present in the moment with the children; to actively listen and engage in sustained interactions and be open to new possibilities for learning. When educators actively listen to the children while engaged in their play, they have the opportunity to collaborate and answer their inquiry-based questions and engage children in more meaningful and complex learning. 

Inquiry-based learning at SEEC may engage an individual child or a group of children. We find the inquiry is often explored with a small group of children with some of the same questions as well as slightly different questions. These questions will evolve over time and the learning continues, diversifies and changes directions. Inquiry-based learning can be as simple as a moment in time or on a day, but true inquiry-based learning explores the more complex and innate questions that children have so can be investigated over the period of a week/s or even months. An inquiry may ‘take a break’ and then resurface weeks later again when something triggers more questions.

What can you do at home with your children to spark investigation and inquiry?

There are many opportunities for sparking children’s curiosity and inquiry. Does your child ask a thousand and one questions about why, what, how and when? Do they want to know why the sky is blue, how do whale’s keep warm, how do birds fly, and so forth? It is important as adults that we do not give your child the answer. It’s also important to acknowledge that even as adults, we don’t have all the answers. We are all life-long learners.

Inquiry based learning in action
Brody and Ethan co-constructing theories on “How do whales keep warm?” with the help of Jamie’s (CEEC educator) experiment.

So next time you get asked “How do magnets work?”, take a breath before you give them the answer, and say “Great question, let’s find out together!” 

Additional reading

We hope that this blog encourages you to incorporate inquiry-based learning into your daily living. If you would like to find out more about our centres you can book a tour or send us a message.



Ann-Marie McConville, CEEC Director

Some other posts that might interest you: