What is Inquiry-based learning and teaching?


According to Merriam-Webster.com, inquiry is:
noun \in-ˈkwī(-ə)r-ē, ˈin-ˌ; ˈin-kwə-rē, ˈiŋ-; ˈin-ˌkwir-ē\ : a request for information
: an official effort to collect and examine information about something
: the act of asking questions in order to gather or collect information

In reality inquiry is the natural method by which we all explore and learn about the world around us from the time we are born. It is a natural result of observing and becoming curious about some thing, formulating questions about our curiosity, trying solutions, revising our thinking and trying more solutions until we have constructed an understanding of the subject we are curious about.

Inquiry is a process, a very creative process. The understandings that we construct as the result of inquiring often change and deepen as we gain understanding of other subjects, as our brains develop neurologically, as our skill sets strengthen and as we share our understandings and ideas with others. The process of inquiry does create a product, but the product is not the end of the learning process. Rather it is a tangible example of that particular process's result.

What does this mean in the classroom? Below is an excerpt from Thirteen Ed Online that helps begin to answer that question:

"The inquiry approach is more focused on using and learning content as a means to develop information-processing and problem-solving skills. The system is more student centered, with the teacher as a facilitator of learning. There is more emphasis on "how we come to know" and less on "what we know." Students are more involved in the construction of knowledge through active involvement. The more interested and engaged students are by a subject or project, the easier it will be for them to construct in-depth knowledge of it. Learning becomes almost effortless when something fascinates students and reflects their interests and goals.
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Assessment is focused on determining the progress of skills development in addition to content understanding. Inquiry learning is concerned with in-school success, but it is equally concerned with preparation for life-long learning.

Inquiry classrooms are open systems where students are encouraged to search and make use of resources beyond the classroom and the school. Teachers who use inquiry can use technology to connect students appropriately with local and world communities which are rich sources of learning and learning materials. They replace lesson plans with facilitated learning plans that account for slight deviations while still keeping an important learning outcome in focus. They meet on-target questions with, "How do you suggest we investigate that question?"

(http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry)


While inquiry-based teaching and learning is not new, the application of these methods and mindsets in today's classrooms is that much more critical because of the pace of change and the vast amounts of information with which our students are faced on a daily basis. In upcoming entries I will further define the methods and tools that help support inquiry-based teaching and learning in the classroom.



Presentation Given to Parents on Inquiry-based Teaching and Learning