Outcomes of inquiry-based learning in health professions education: a scoping review





Background: Open inquiry-based learning (IBL) that aims to foster higher-level thinking, is defined by students formulating their own questions and learning through exploration. The present study aimed to summarize the breadth of metrics used to evaluate health professions trainees in open IBL curricula.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review to identify publications detailing trainee outcomes in open IBL initiatives in health professions education. We queried five databases and included studies which described interventions with five phases of IBL (orientation, conceptualization, investigation, conclusion, and discussion). We completed abstract and full text reviews in duplicate. Data were collated and summarized.

Results: From 3030 record, 21 studies were included in the final extraction (k = 0.94), with nine involving physician trainees and twelve involving nursing trainees. Three studies used validated data collection tools to measure student inquiry behavior, and a single study used a validated data collection tool to measure critical thinking abilities. Most studies (n = 11) reported trainee self-reported satisfaction or perceived gain of skills as the primary outcome. All four studies using validated tools reported high scores in inquiry behaviors at the end of the curriculum and results on critical thinking skills were mixed. One study collected serial data, while remaining studies collected pre-post or post-only data.

Conclusion: IBL has the potential to cultivate a climate of curiosity among health professions learners. However, studies have relied heavily on subjective outcomes. Limited studies reported standardized measures of inquiry behaviors suggest favorable results. Curriculum innovations using IBL could make use of existing tools to better understand their impact on students’ inquiry-oriented skills.

Author Biography

Amrit Kirpalani, Western University

Assistant Professor

Department of Paediatrics

Children's Hospital, LHSC


Wartman SA, Combs CD. Reimagining medical education in the age of AI. AMA J Ethics 2019;21(2):E146-52. https://doi.org/10.1001/amajethics.2019.146

Ellaway RH. When I say … epistemic curiosity. Med Educ 2014;48(2):113-4. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.12272

Irby DM, Cooke M, O'Brien BC. Calls for reform of medical education by the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching: 1910 and 2010. Acad Med 2010;85(2):220-7. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181c88449

Lazonder AW, Harmsen R. Meta-analysis of inquiry-based learning: effects of guidance. Rev. Educ. Res. 2016;86(3):681-718. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654315627366

Pedaste M, Mäeots M, Siiman LA, et al. Phases of inquiry-based learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle. J Educ Res Review 2015;14:47-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2015.02.003

Experiencing the Process of Knowledge Creation: the nature and use of inquiry-based learning in higher education; 2008.

Justice CR, J. Warry, W. Laruie, I. Taking an ‘’inquiry’’ course makes a difference: a comparative analysis of student learning. J Excell Coll Teach 2007;18(1):57-77.

Aditomo A, Goodyear P, Bliuc A-M, et al. Inquiry-based learning in higher education: principal forms, educational objectives, and disciplinary variations. Stud High Educ 2013;38(9):1239-58. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2011.616584

Spronken‐Smith R, Walker R. Can inquiry‐based learning strengthen the links between teaching and disciplinary research? Stud High Educ 2010;35(6):723-40. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070903315502

Arksey H, O'Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. Intern J Social Res Methodol 2005;8(1):19-32. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364557032000119616

Tricco AC, Lillie E, Zarin W, et al. PRISMA extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): checklist and explanation. Ann Intern Med 2018;169(7):467-73. https://doi.org/10.7326/m18-0850

Oğuz Ünver A, ArabacioĞlu S. Overviews on inquiry based and problem based learning methods. 2011

Feletti G. Inquiry based and problem based learning: how similar are these approaches to nursing and medical education? Higher Education Research & Development 1993;12(2):143-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/0729436930120203

Covidence Systematic Review Software 2021 VHI, Melbourne, Australia. Covidence Systematic Review Software 2021, Veritas Health Innovation, Melbourne, Australia. Available at Www.Covidence.Org.

McHugh ML. Interrater reliability: the kappa statistic. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2012;22(3):276-82. [published Online First: 2012/10/25]

Tamayo G, Santibañez M, Javier Meana J. Evaluation of a pharmacology educational activity based on a research project: a randomized, controlled and blind analysis of medical students' perceptions. Med Teach 2005;27(1):53-60. https://doi.org/10.1080/01421590400013487

Wentland BA, Hinderer KA. A nursing research and evidence-based practice fellowship program in a Magnet®-designated pediatric medical center. Appl Nurs Res 2020;55:151287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnr.2020.151287

Kim SC, Covington B, Benavente V, et al. Capstone projects as experiential evidence-based practice education. J Nurse Prac 2019;15(3):e51-e56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2018.12.011

Magnussen L, Ishida D, Itano J. The impact of the use of inquiry-based learning as a teaching methodology on the development of critical thinking. J Nurs Educ 2000;39(8):360-4. https://doi.org/10.3928/0148-4834-20001101-07

Brondfield S, Boscardin C, Strewler G, et al. A medical student inquiry behavior assessment tool: development and validity evidence. Acad Med 2019;94(4):586-94. https://doi.org/10.1097/acm.0000000000002520

Cadorin L, Bressan V, Palese A. Instruments evaluating the self-directed learning abilities among nursing students and nurses: a systematic review of psychometric properties. BMC Med Educ 2017;17(1):229. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-017-1072-3

Keshmiri F, Rahmati A, Ghafarrahimi Amin A, et al. Validating and assessing the reaction of medical students toward team-based learning. Acta Med Iran 2016;54(12):806-11. [published Online First: 2017/01/26]

Yoon HB, Park WB, Myung SJ, et al. Validity and reliability assessment of a peer evaluation method in team-based learning classes. Korean J Med Educ 2018;30(1):23-29. https://doi.org/10.3946/kjme.2018.78

Papinczak T, Young L, Groves M, et al. An analysis of peer, self, and tutor assessment in problem-based learning tutorials. Med Teach 2007;29(5):e122-32. https://doi.org/10.1080/01421590701294323

Salinitri FD, Lobkovich AM, Crabtree BL, et al. Reliability and validity of a checklist to evaluate student performance in a problem-based learning group. Am J Pharm Educ 2019;83(8):6963. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe6963

Salinitri FD, O'Connell MB, Garwood CL, et al. An objective structured clinical examination to assess problem-based learning. Am J Pharm Educ 2012;76(3):44. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe76344

Cömert M, Zill JM, Christalle E, et al. Assessing communication skills of medical students in objective structured clinical examinations (osce)--a systematic review of rating scales. PLoS One 2016;11(3):e0152717. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152717

Battistone MJ, Barker AM, Beck JP, et al. Validity evidence for two objective structured clinical examination stations to evaluate core skills of the shoulder and knee assessment. BMC Med Educ 2017;17(1):13. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-016-0850-7

Zhang F, Zhao L, Zeng Y, et al. A comparison of inquiry-oriented teaching and lecture-based approach in nursing ethics education. Nurse Educ Today 2019;79:86-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2019.05.006

Migliore L, Chouinard H, Woodlee R. Clinical research and practice collaborative: an evidence-based nursing clinical inquiry expansion. Mil Med 2020;185(Suppl 2):35-42. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usz447

Schön M, Steinestel K, Spiegelburg D, et al. Integration of Scientific Competence into Gross Anatomy Teaching Using poster presentations: feasibility and perception among medical students. Anat Sci Educ 2020:89-101. https://doi.org/10.1002/ase.2031

Crabtree E, Brennan E, Davis A, et al. Improving patient care through nursing engagement in evidence-based practice. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs 2016;13(2):172-5. https://doi.org/10.1111/wvn.12126

Durstenfeld MS, Statman S, Carney K, et al. Swimming with sharks: teaching residents value-based medicine and quality improvement through resident-pitched projects. J Grad Med Educ 2020;12(3):320-26. https://doi.org/10.4300/jgme-d-19-00421.1

Rush B, Barker JH. Involving mental health service users in nurse education through enquiry-based learning. Nurse Educ Pract 2006;6(5):254-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nepr.2006.02.002

Bebb H, Pittam G. Inquiry‐based learning as a ‘whole‐curriculum approach’: the experiences of first‐year nursing students. Learning in Health and Social Care 2004;3(3):141-53.

Si J. Course-based research experience of undergraduate medical students through project-based learning. Korean J Med Educ 2020;32(1):47-57. https://doi.org/10.3946/kjme.2020.152

Riner ME. Using implementation science as the core of the doctor of nursing practice inquiry project. J Prof Nurs 2015;31(3):200-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2014.11.002

Neville K, Horbatt S. Evidence-based practice: creating a spirit of inquiry to solve clinical nursing problems. Orthop Nurs 2008;27(6):331-7; quiz 38-9. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NOR.0000342417.13842.cf

Rodríguez G, Pérez N, Núñez G, et al. Developing creative and research skills through an open and interprofessional inquiry-based learning course. BMC Med Educ 2019;19(1):134. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1563-5

Mateo E, Sevillano E. Project-based learning methodology in the area of microbiology applied to undergraduate medical research. FEMS Microbiol Lett 2018;365(13) https://doi.org/10.1093/femsle/fny129

Frey K, Edwards F, Altman K, et al. The 'Collaborative Care' curriculum: an educational model addressing key ACGME core competencies in primary care residency training. Med Educ 2003;37(9):786-9. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2923.2003.01598.x

Lakin JR, Brannen EN, Bernacki RE, et al. A Curriculum in Quality Improvement for Interprofessional Palliative Care Trainees. Am J Hosp Palliat Care 2020;37(1):41-45. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049909119850794

Finn FL, Fensom SA, Chesser-Smyth P. Promoting learning transfer in post registration education: a collaborative approach. Nurse Educ Pract 2010;10(1):32-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nepr.2009.03.005

Kenty JR. Weaving undergraduate research into practice-based experiences. Nurse Educ 2001;26(4):182-6. https://doi.org/10.1097/00006223-200107000-00015




How to Cite

Verma S, Yacob MS, Kirpalani A. Outcomes of inquiry-based learning in health professions education: a scoping review. Can. Med. Ed. J [Internet]. 2022 Nov. 29 [cited 2023 Mar. 30];. Available from: https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/cmej/article/view/75144



Reviews, Theoretical Papers, and Meta-Analyses