Inquiry can be broken down into four levels based on the amount of information and guidance the teacher provides the students (Banchi and Bell, pg 26). The levels range from limited, or confirmation, inquiry (most guided form of inquiry) to open inquiry (least guided inquiry). Students are expected to practice limited and structured inquiry in order to develop the necessary skills to eventually perform guided and then open inquiry. Students become more independent in their learning as they progress from limited inquiry to open inquiry. Teachers facilitate this growth by providing students with the appropriate knowledge and guidance required at the given level of inquiry. The four levels of inquiry are:
- Limited/Confirmation Inquiry – Students confirm a principle through an activity when the results are known in advance.
- Structured Inquiry – Students investigate a teacher-presented question through a prescribed procedure.
- Guided Inquiry – Students investigate a teacher-presented question using student designed/selected procedures.
- Open Inquiry – Students investigate questions that are student formulated through student designed/selected procedure.(Banchi and Bell, pg 27)