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In this section of the Inquiry-based Learning workshop, you will have many opportunities to both analyze what you're already doing well and explore some new techniques that you can add to your repertoire. Each of the questions below is designed to open an area of discovery. We provide some tools and activities to help you build upon the knowledge you created in the first two sections of this workshop.

How do I get started using inquiry-based learning?
What are some challenges I might face?
How do I assess students' progress?
How can inquiry-based learning involve parents and the community?
How can technology be used with inquiry-based learning?

How do I get started using inquiry-based learning?

To start using inquiry, teachers must first be familiar with the conceptual frameworks that structure the subjects they teach and the "ground rules," or habits of mind, that are important to particular disciplines. To learn more about these for particular subject areas, see the "Resources" section for some links with ideas on where to start.

Questions, whether self-initiated or posed by others, are at the heart of learning by inquiry. While questions are a part of the traditional classroom, the source, the purpose, and the level of questions are quite different. In the traditional classroom, the teacher is frequently the questioner, and the purpose of questions is often to assess whether or not students have learned and absorbed particular information.

imageWhen the teacher poses questions in an inquiry classroom, the questions are more reflective in nature. Appropriate questioning techniques are important in an inquiry classroom -- especially in the lower grades where guided inquiry serves as a base for later, self-initiated questioning.

Inquiry learning requires being prepared mentally and physically for the process. The mental process might be more of a personal philosophical change about teaching and learning. The physical process has more to do with the preparation of the learning environment.

The teacher's role is critical in inquiry learning, but the role is different from that for which most teachers have been prepared. The teacher becomes the leader of the learning, or the facilitator of the learning process. Modeling is extremely important for younger learners.

Early discussions and questioning before the initiation of a new topic or an activity can be important in finding out what the learner knows, what he or she would like to know, and perhaps some held misconceptions. The final step in this process will be to determine what the learner learned.

In order to encourage the process of inquiry learning, it is important that the teacher helps the learner feel safe in sharing. Misconceptions can be overcome, but it takes skill to avoid "putting down" learners who hold them.

Mentally and physically, the teacher should keep the four important outcomes of inquiry in mind in designing learning activities. As noted in the "Explanation" section these outcomes are (1) information-processing skills, (2) habits of mind, 1 or "ground rules," (3) content understanding, and (4) conceptual understanding 2.

1.     2.

These following questions should be asked about the planned activity or learning experience:

Does it contribute to developing information-processing skills?
Does it lead to the nurturing of habits of mind?
Does it lead to important content understanding?
Does it lead to content understanding in a conceptual context?

Part 1 of 2 Part 2 of 2
Tim O'Keefe and his students at the Center for Inquiry Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina, prepare for a botany investigation that will take them out into the woods.
Physically, the learning environment should be enriched with learning resources that will both stimulate and help answer the learners' inquiries. The learning environment should contain lots of reading materials -- books, pamphlets, journals, and magazines -- relating to the topic under study. If a computer with CD-ROM access is available, CD-ROMs can be important sources of information, and many are interactive and include simulations. If access to the Internet is available, it can be an important source of resource materials and resources for learning. Depending upon the nature of the activity, it might be necessary for the teacher to plan to have supplies and materials available for the students to explore some of their own questions.

In addition, to start using inquiry, you must become familiar with various types of questions and help your students learn to learn from them.

For a detailed discussion of each of these kinds of questions, see "Explanation" section.

Workshop: Inquiry-based Learning
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation | Get Credit

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