Simulations and PBL in Inquiry Classrooms

 Inquiry Based Learning

“Inquiry-based instruction is a student-centered and teacher-guided instructional approach that engages students in investigating real world questions that they choose within a broad thematic framework.”

Students learn through discovery in their classroom and with their peers in a manner that follows a Questioning -> Researching -> Discussion -> Creating -> Reflecting path and then a return to the questioning when the student realizes that by uncovering the answers that he or she sought in the beginning that he or she has now uncovered new questions, and thus the cycle repeats.

Inquiry Based Instruction has three key points through which simulations and PBL learning cycles are designed:

  • Student Centered
  • Inquiry based learning focuses on the learner as the central part of the curriculum. Students are not simply lined up in rows in a classroom and taught to.They are moving, doing, creating, interacting and reflecting on their in and out of class experiences. Each lesson, lab and activity will take on a slightly different personality for each student.
  • Teacher Guided
  • The instructor plays a supplemental role within the classroom. He or she does not stand and teach to the students, but is there to aid in their development and research and to push them in the right direction if they hit a road block.
  • Used to investigate real world scenarios and applications


Simulations are potential real world situations which students are placed in the middle of and are required to think out decisions involving different aspects of the situation and make their decisions according to what they think is best.

An excellent simulation for a science classroom would be the MASH war simulation. Students are given information sheets about different soldiers and civilians who have all been injured in some way. These sheets offer some background information as well as the type of injury and severity. Students are required to select which patients they believe should be operated on first and then be able to defend their choices.

Problem Based Learning

  • Learning that starts with an ill-structured problem or case study. Students are asked to find solutions to the problem and present them in a clean and efficient manner to determine which is most feasible and most likely to succeed.
  • A common tried and true PBL problem is the “el nino” situation. The students and their groupmates have been contacted to help lessen the impact of the forthcoming el nino. Students are required to research the conditions and effects of el nino and devise a plan for how to best prepare for it.




Below are some links to websites which can help spark creativity when it comes to creating and utilizing simulations and problem based learning in an inquiry classroom

1. Simulations, Games and Learning by Diana Oblinger

2. Problem Based Learning Activities


3. What is PBL?






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