This comprehensive study investigated student outcomes of inquiry-based learning (IBL) in undergraduate mathematics and linked these outcomes to students’ and instructors’ experiences of IBL. Based at four research universities that have been developing IBL courses, the mixed-methods study examined outcomes including skills, cognitive gains, attitudes and beliefs, and education and career paths. The study also sought to understand how these outcomes come about, using a combination of surveys, classroom observations, interviews, tests, and student academic records. Finally, we examined the recruitment and participation of IBL instructors, their professional development, and the institutionalization of these approaches in their departments.

  • Laursen, S. (2020, June 11). What does the research say?  Learning and teaching in inquiry-based undergraduate mathematics. A summary for educators. Video: Youtube. (23 minute video presentation) 

Laursen, S. (2015, June). From innovation to implementation: Multi-institution pedagogical reform in undergraduate mathematics. A summary of research results. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research. [A two-page digest of key findings]

Laursen, S., Hassi, M. L., Kogan, M., Hunter, A. B., & Weston, T. (2011). Evaluation of the IBL Mathematics Project: Student and Instructor Outcomes of Inquiry-Based Learning in College Mathematics. (Report to the Educational Advancement Foundation and the IBL Mathematics Centers) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research, Assessment & Evaluation Center for Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics.

Study methods - all appendices

  • Appendix A1 - Overview of Research Methods for the Mixed-Methods Study
  • Appendix A2 - Study Methods: Classroom Observation

  • Appendix A3 - Study Methods: Student Surveys

  • Appendix A4 - Study Methods: Linking Classroom Observation and Student Survey Data

  • Appendix A5 - Study Methods: Mathematics Tests

  • Appendix A6 - Study Methods: Student Academic Records

  • Appendix A7 - Study Methods: Student and Instructor Interviews

Assessment & Evaluation Center for Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics (2009). (Reports to the IBL Mathematics Project) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.

  • Inquiry Brief 1: Validation of mathematical proofs. First findings from a proof test.
  • Inquiry Brief 2: Mathematical knowledge for teaching. First findings from MKT measures of students’ cognitive gains.
  • Inquiry Brief 3: Differences between IBL and non-IBL classroom practices. First findings from observations of classroom activity, leadership, and questioning behaviors.
  • Inquiry Brief 4: Variations in classroom practice among IBL courses. First findings from observations of classroom activity, leadership, and questioning behaviors.

In related work, we are evaluating professional development workshops that support college mathematics instructors in using inquiry-based learning in their own courses. See our Professional Development page for our most recent reports.

We are currently studying how people, structures, and ideas are important to the past development, current growth, and future sustainability of an educational community that promotes inquiry-based learning in college mathematics.

Some of this work reveals opportunities and challenges for the IBL Math community in defining itself. To learn more from the research team and from IBL community members, visit the IBL Community page.

The study of the IBL Math community is supported by the National Science Foundation under award 1347669. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these reports are those of the researchers, and do not represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.

Interested in inquiry-based learning in math? We recommend the following resources:


The SALG-M is a form of the Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) survey instrument that is customized for undergraduate mathematics courses. We have used this survey to examine students' learning gains across a range of cognitive, affective, and social domains (e.g. Hassi & Laursen, 2009) and are making it available to instructors and researchers. To examine or use the SALG-M, please download these instructions and visit to set up and customize a copy for your own use. To review the questions, view this copy of the instrument.

Ways to Learn About IBL Teaching

Materials for IBL Courses