Elementary Science

How to encourage inquiry based learning

Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:13 PM

Good evening everyone! 

I know inquiry-based learning is very much encouraged in the science community! However, is there any tips or ways to encourage inquiry-based learning beyond science? Anything is greatly appreciated! 

Kohleen Mendoza
Kohleen Mendoza
230 Activity Points

Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:43 AM

A. Inquiry teaching is difficult, especially at first. It takes time and courage to help students construct their own meaning rather than to just give them the answer. Some of the most vocally opposed students (and their parents) will be your best students because they have gotten very good at the memorize, regurgitate game and they are now under the impression that this is what it means to be a good student, and by doing inquiry, you potentially challenge their self image. You may not have the support of your administration (the assistant principal observing my class said "It would have been a lot more effective lesson had you just told them exactly what to do and what the answer was" ... I didn't get tenure there). You probably won't have the support of other teachers, who hear through the grapevine that their favorite students were frustrated in class today ... and if they talk to you about it, and you talk about the memorization, regurgitation is not equal to learning, they too might become your enemy because their self-image is wrapped up in the fact that they are a good teacher because their students can memorize/regurgitate well. Finally, it takes self-confidence in your content knowledge ... not that you know everything, but that if things go into an interesting tangent, you won't freak out that your are going to be exposed as not knowing ... but rather you will be also one of those learning, and you are even willing to share the discovery with your students. Given all this, I don't think most teachers (perhaps most people in the population) have the guts to do inquiry without support from other teachers/admin or have tenure.

B. That being said, you can do inquiry anywhere. Easy. At my school we do writing across the curriculum, so I teach an environmental science course with writing designation. In it, when teaching introductions, I hand out a couple versions of introductions to the same paper, and they tell me which one is better and why. There is a history curriculum one of my colleagues is pretty big on that I think would fall under inquiry - (Reacting to the Past https://reacting.barnard.edu/). In an art group I belong to, the leader one day had us flip through some books of art, find colors we liked, and just try to figure out how to make them, and she provided hints and discussion along the way about whether a warm red (cadmium) or a cool red (alazarin) was really the best red to be using for this particular color. The CMP and Core+ mathematics curricula which were popular in MN for about 5 years from 1998-2003 were inquiry-based, but although it was widely adopted, and the 11th grade MCA was written for it, it rapidly fell out of favor because of the reasons listed in A ... HIGH level of frustration, no easy memorize regurgitate questions, etc. I remember talking with the math teachers adopting it ... then going to a training workshop on a year or two later when I began to teach with it and it was an amazingly fun curriculum if you liked math and liked to discover patterns yourself. But apparently frustrating to try to learn your basic skills from.

C. Finally, do not forget that just because students have their hands busy, it is not inquiry (or at least not good inquiry). Some people still do bridge building or egg drops in science classes ... I don't know why. Students appear to do 1 of 2 things - trial and error or google and copy, but no one really teaches and expects students to apply engineering statics to the bridge design. But one thing I never see on these is any kind of analysis/discussion after the fact - (for 5E inquiry, the "Explain" phase"). These are our top 5 bridges ... what do they have in common. These were our 5 strongest bridges that didn't do well in the scoring because of their excessive weight (scoring is usually weight held/weight of bridge), what do they have in common and how could they have been improved, etc. You can't stop at the "explore" phase and call it inquiry. If you are, it is just playing.

Richard Lahti
Richard Lahti
2425 Activity Points

Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:25 PM


I would begin that process of incorporating inquiry based learning by doing proper research on what that looks like from the teacher's perspective. Here is a quick read and introduction to what inquiry based learning is and why it is important we incorporate it into our classrooms: http://edutopia.orghttps://www.edutopia.org/practice/inquiry...-classroom

My college professor that teaches a science methods class always starts inquiry by posing a question to the entire class. It allows the class to assess their own thinking and develop an answer to the question. Through out the entire class discussion, he does not tell anyone they are right or wrong but he DOES insist that we explain our reasoning. This gives us time to dig deep and question why we think that. Often times, it challenges our years and years of misconceptions in science, other times it makes us feel like we don't know what we're talking about. However, his guided questions allow us to think about our own thoughts and why we arrived to those answers.
Instead of making the teacher a receptacle of knowledge, we must encourage our students to think for themselves and reach answers with the facilitation of teachers. After we discuss, he gives us some context to the question - which we still are exploring the topic on our own. Once we've worked in groups to understand the question and answer, we come back together to discuss the misconception or topic altogether. It works really well although it is quite an adjustment. Hope this helps!

Asmara Mengisteab
Asmara Mengisteab
215 Activity Points

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers