In classrooms where teachers are shifting practices to meet the needs of 21st century learners, inquiry is the core of teaching. This month's tip deals with the question: What is inquiry-based learning?
"Inquiry is an approach to learning whereby students find and use a variety of sources of information and ideas to increase their understanding of a problem, topic, or issue. It requires more of them than simply answering questions or getting a right answer. It espouses investigation, exploration, search, quest, research, pursuit, and study. Inquiry does not stand alone; it engages, interests, and challenges students to connect their world with the curriculum." (Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes and Ann Caspari, Guided Inquiry Learning in the Classroom, 2007, p. 1)
Simply stated, inquiry is about creating opportunities to engage students in active learning based on their own questions. The process is learner centred, learner driven, and cyclical. Each question leads to exploration which then leads to more questions to investigate. Inquiry involves the conceptual 'uncovering' of a topic and the active construction of new understandings. As Wilhelm suggests in his book, Inquiring Minds, "inquiry is the apprenticeship into true expertise and understanding by doing what experts do." You will find that using inquiry will promote student engagement, connections, and enthusiasm for content being studied.
As Darling-Hammond points out in her book, Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding, inquiry is fundamental to deep learning; it helps students "learn how to learn in powerful ways so they can manage the demands of changing information, technologies, jobs, and social conditions" (p.12).
The Inquiry Cycle
The inquiry cycle begins with learners asking meaningful questions which are inspired by genuine curiosity about the subject matter, and concerns from their lived experiences. Next learners investigate and gather information by researching resources, studying, crafting an experiment, observing or interviewing an expert in the field. In the create part of the cycle, learners begin to make connections and shape significant new thoughts, and ideas outside of their prior experience. Important to communal learning is the discuss section of the cycle where learners 'go public' with their thinking and share new ideas with others and ask others about their experiences and investigations. At this time, learners may be comparing notes, discussing conclusions, and sharing experiences. The final, and perhaps most important aspect of the inquiry cycle, is the reflect stage. Learners step back and take time to look at the original question, the investigation, and the conclusions made. It is at this point that new questions may prompt another cycle of inquiry.
(adapted from inquiry.illinois.edu/inquiry/process.php)
Below are several easy actions to help hone your learning environment to promote inquiry.
|Set up an Engaging Environment||
|Gather Great Text and Resources||
|Hone Your Teaching Language||
|Provide for Rich Interaction||