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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 can inquiry-based learning involve parents and the community?

An African proverb states, "It takes a village to raise a child." In application to education, you might say, "It takes an effective support system to educate a child." Part of that effective support system includes the child's family.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians, and others can be extremely important in offering support for the learners in pursuing their educational goals. These same individuals, once informed and committed, can be strong advocates for quality education -- especially in times of change. To function well as the child's educational support and supporter of quality education, the community must be informed and actively involved.

In the implementation of any program, there are at least three critical phases. These phases apply to bringing families on board the school's educational program. The stages are:


  • an awareness stage;

  • a willingness to commit stage; and

  • the commitment stage.

All of these stages are important, and each one has different goals and methods. Too often in educational implementation, most of the effort is directed almost totally to the first stage, bringing awareness.

Awareness Stage

The community cannot be supportive unless people are aware of the importance of what is being advocated, in this case inquiry learning. It is extremely important to make parents and others aware of how this approach to education is more compatible with the needs of modern society. While others have important parts to play in raising awareness, the teacher has a very important contribution to make in reaching parents and other important members of the community.

The materials and methods you develop for this stage should concentrate on bringing awareness to members of the community about the importance of inquiry learning. You can help community members understand how the students will develop skills and the commitment to continue to learn. You can give members of the community practical examples of these kinds of skills and an understanding of how they translate into real-life situations.

Good ways to contact members of the community are through school newsletters, notes to parents from the teacher, during school visits, on back-to-school nights, and during PTA meetings.

Willingness to Commit Stage

At this stage, members of the community have begun to express interest in finding out more and becoming a little more involved. In this stage, it is a good idea to begin to give samples of the kind of work that students are doing. You could even design some activities focused on inquiry learning that parents and their child can take part in together. The activities would need both child and parent input to complete. (Remember not to hold the child completely responsible if the parents do not at first respond positively.) Keep trying and keep encouraging in order to convince key parents to help.

Commitment Stage

In the commitment stage, parents have bought into the program and are willing to help and to be advocates for the program. Here they will need advice and concrete suggestions on what to do and how to do things. This stage is critical for widespread support. It is always better to have others in the community explain the importance and significance of the programs that teachers and schools are trying to accomplish. Parents can be important links to influential institutions in the community, such as politicians, newspapers, businesses, radio, television, and other sources of broad contacts.

Here are some examples of things they can inform the community about:

  • Information about the characteristics of effective inquiry-learning activities.

  • Learning along with their children through using books, TV programs, and learning hobbies, such as reading clubs, rock and insect collecting, and historical study.

  • Visiting museums, zoos, aquariums, and historical sites with their children.

  • Being aware of quality television programs like those on PBS, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and others.

  • Encouraging their children to read and subscribe to a variety of multidisciplinary publications and journals.

  • Monitoring and supporting children's progress at home.

  • Volunteering to be speakers, a student mentor, or a teacher mentor.

  • Encouraging important civic organizations in the community to take a strong stand in the support of inquiry learning.

  • Informing and encouraging local political leaders to take strong positions on the support of inquiry learning.

  • Establishing programs that recognize the outstanding achievements of both students and teachers in inquiry learning.

  • Establishing contacts with and getting commitment from the local media to publicize and recognize outstanding achievements.

  • Recognizing and publicizing administrators who show outstanding leadership in helping establish inquiry-learning programs.

Workshop: Inquiry-based Learning
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