Skip main navigation

Questions for Inquiry-based Learning

This article discusses the different types of relevant questions for an inquiry based learning project.
Pink background blue question mark


Whether developed by the teacher or the learners, a question forms the basis of any inquiry. 

Within traditional learning settings, questions are generally structured and targeted to test comprehension and for formative and summative assessment, to identify how much content the learners have assimilated.

However, within an IBL setting, questions are more reflective so an appropriate questioning technique is important, especially when “guided inquiry” is leading to self-initiated questioning, as learners grow in confidence and independence.

Developing questions for IBL

There are five different types of questions that are applicable within an IBL approach. These are:

  • Factual   
  • Convergent   
  • Divergent   
  • Evaluative   
  • Combination


Factual questions generally require simple, fact-based answers. These questions require those lower order, thinking skills detailed in Bloom’s taxonomy: “identifying” and “remembering”. Answers to factual questions are usually right or wrong.

Example: What is this piece of safety equipment called? 


These questions have a limited number of correct responses as they are generally content-focused. As a result, a group of learners will generally give similar answers to a convergent question. These questions relate to those “understanding, applying and analysing” thinking skills, as detailed by Bloom.

Example: What are the main reasons, safety equipment is necessary for this environment? 


Divergent questions have many possible answers, as they focus on the wider context. As a result, a group of learners will generally find many different answers to a divergent question. These questions also challenge learners to apply Bloom’s higher-order thinking skills such as: “analysing, predicting, evaluating and synthesising” to encourage deep, critical thinking.

Whether the answers are accurate or not, generally aligns with how probable those answers are.

Example: Indonesia has the world’s largest geothermal potential. Exploration campaigns and initial test drilling for new geothermal power sites cost millions of dollars. What strategies would you use to maximise the discovery of viable geothermal sites? 


These are complex questions requiring Bloom’s highest-order thinking skills: “analysing and evaluating”. These require learners to consider multiple processes and combine ideas and perspectives to synthesise or create new information and ideas.

Example: Compare and contrast the processing requirements for hydrothermal resources from dry steam wells with those from hot water wells? 


Combination questions use a combination of those listed above.

(Adapted from Wilson, 2018).

This article is from the free online

Adult Education Essentials: Student-Centred Course Design

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now