A Backward Approach to Inquiryby: Sher Hendrickson

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

In the sciences, the National Science Education Standards further emphasize that learning science is an inquiry-based process; therefore, teaching methods should be inquiry-based. Use a backwards design approach to ensure that academic standards are met during student-centered, inquiry-based investigations for daily class activities, classroom discussions, and assessment of student understanding.

  • Middle
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 396 Libraries

Reviews (4)
  • on Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:22 PM

As inquiry-based learning becomes the new approach to teaching our students, it requires a paradigm shift in the way that we train our teachers. In this article, the authors outline a professional development program that effectively trains teachers to implement inquiry-based learning. Using a "backwards" approach, in which the design of curriculum and learning experiences become a means to an end, the authors outline the professional development program used in Madison, WI and address the methods of assessment. The authors also address the main challenges of using formative assessment and include ideas for solutions. Additionally they provide a sample of the activity alignment to standards. Overall this is an excellent article, that provides clear and concise information on how to implement a inquiry-based learning pd program.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:12 PM

The idea of students owning their learning, of wanting to wonder, of asking questions and proceeding through inquiry opportunities in order to discover answers on their own is an ideal vision of many classroom teachers. Unfortunately, in a standards-based, assessment- based, educational environment, the question begs to be answered: “How do we assure that academic standards are met during student centered, inquiry based investigations?” (Hendrickson, 2006, p.30). In her article, Hendrickson suggests that using a backwards design approach to planning for an inquiry based lesson will provide the assurance that the students will learn the standards required. In a backwards design approach, teachers should “begin by identifying the specific learning objectives, then all activities, teaching methods and assessments that support these goals” (Hendrickson, 2006, p.30). In other words, instructors should begin with the end in mind. What are the learning goals for the students? What would mastery of the standard look like? The idea seems simple. Unfortunately, many teachers do not begin by looking at what a student that has mastered a concept will look like, or will be able to do upon learning the content. This article would have been even more beneficial had it provided further details or examples on how an inquiry unit could be built from starting with the end. I appreciate that Hendrickson also highlights the use and need of formative assessments throughout the inquiry time frame. Inquiry based learning is not about letting the students go and learn on their own. Inquiry based learning requires that the students are continuously monitored for understanding and learning. This article also provides an example of an inquiry based idea and how different activities, lessons and assessments are aligned with the particular standards that the unit is attempting to address. This example was the most helpful part of the article and provided a real-life example of how content standards can be taught through an inquiry unit and students still assessed for mastery. Hendrickson, S. (2006). A backward approach to inquiry. Science Scope, 29(4), p.30-33.

Hilary P
Hilary P

  • on Mon May 23, 2011 7:53 AM

Backwards Design definitely deserves a second look. It enables teachers to incorporate inquiry based learning into the classroom while still covering the necessary content to meet science standards. Students learn science by exploring and still do well on a standardized test.

Ruth Hutson  (Westmoreland, KS)
Ruth Hutson (Westmoreland, KS)

  • on Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:24 PM

This article focus on two main ideas: how to design your inquiry-based curriculum to support the standards you teach and how to use formative assessments to support your curriculum. This would be a good article for a group of teachers or adminstrators to read when helping support the work their teachers do at their school.

Kate Geer  (Louisville, CO)
Kate Geer (Louisville, CO)

Free - NSTA Members

$1.29 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.