Classroom Management and Inquiry-Based Learning: Finding the Balance by: Chew-Leng Poon, Doris Tan, and Aik-Ling Tan

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Inquiry practices often involve more student-centered activities where students interact more intensively with materials and with other students during investigations. In addition to monitoring the learning taking place, teachers in an inquiry classroom have to manage more movements of materials and equipment and the social dynamics among students. In this article, the authors share seven successful strategies one teacher used in managing a grade 6 class that gave her confidence in transitioning from a traditional classroom to a more inquiry-based classroom.

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Reviews (7)
  • on Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:09 PM

Implementing inquiry-based science lessons is a very important thing but it can also be challenging! One aspect that I find challenging is the classroom management aspect. How do you make the classroom student-centered and student led, but still have control over the classroom? I have been looking for resources to help me and this is a great resource! It provides various tips and strategies for classroom management in an inquiry-based classroom. It provides tips on a wide base of topics, from seating arrangements to the types of activities that should be implemented. Great resource for teachers looking for tips about classroom management!

Lizzie Walsh
Lizzie Walsh

  • on Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:12 AM

Classroom management strategies are classified into two broad categories: (1) preventative practices that seek to create positive learning environments and student behavior, and (2) intervention practices that are used to deal with disruptive behaviors. The category of preventative practices could be further grouped into two clusters, one centering on curriculum and instruction and the other focusing on classroom organization. Curriculum and instruction Classroom management not only involves organizing the physical environment but also curriculum and instruction to create an environment conducive for learning. The relevance and appeal of tasks and activities chosen and how they are organized for teaching and learning can have an impact on student behavior in the classroom. Students are motivated when they experience success in completing their tasks. Therefore, tasks must be designed to be achievable. At the same time, when tasks are not sufficiently challenging, bored students could choose disruptive behavior. In the future, in my class, I will have my students keep a science journal where they wrote their own lesson notes. Keeping a journal brought about a greater sense of ownership and was a more active way of learning than reading their science texts. I will also guide the students to reflect on the value of an inquiry approach to learning. Students reflect on their own learning processes helped build shared values in the classroom and motivated students to cooperate with a teacher. The tables in my classroom will be permanently arranged in a way that facilitated group work. By observing the behavior of the students, I will make changes to the group composition, particularly in separating students who tended to exhibit off-task behaviors when they are in the same group. In a typical lesson, I will begin the lesson with a review of concepts relevant to the investigation and give some procedural instructions to prepare students for the investigation. During the investigations, I may interrupt students activities to give further instructions. At the end of the investigation, I will have the students gather together as a class to report their findings or to co-construct concepts based on the data they have collected.

Xiaomeng Ni
Xiaomeng Ni

  • on Fri Nov 03, 2017 10:43 AM

I think that this article outlines a lot of really good strategies that I will be able to currently work into my 7th and 8th grade classrooms. The articles gives many ideas and examples of hands on activities, how to arrange your classroom seating, how to have students reflect on their learning and keeping scientific journals for students to keep notes and important things in. This allows the students to become more self aware in their own practices, and hold other students more accountable if they are trying to be off task. Creating a very group work oriented class allowed for the teacher, Doris, to engage more in one on on or small group contact with her students. To me this is all very helpful. Having good classroom management is something I strive to have but I know will take some work and practice at first. With implementing the project oriented seating arrangements and allowing student to be engaging in self reflection and reflection of the lessons in their journals will help keep the students engaged and me aware of what my students are achieving in my class and how they are feeling about different aspects of the lessons. I will definitely implement these things into my classroom this coming semester.

Haley Moore  (Canfield, OH)
Haley Moore (Canfield, OH)

  • on Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:20 AM

This article mainly talks about four strategies on curriculum and instructions, and three strategies on classroom organization for building an inquiry classroom. Classroom management integrates curriculum and instructions to create an conducive environment for learning. Students need to be motivated and inspired by achievable and changeable learning tasks, trying to avoid disruptive behaviors of them. Firstly, teachers can adopt hands-on, minds-on, and minds-stretching investigative activities. Students will be excited and focus on the activities when the activities are not only interesting, but also a little bit changing, which can make them think and generate their own solutions. Secondly, teachers can take advantage of science journals. Students are required to keep science journals to record their learning. It is a more positive way of learning than reading a science textbook. About the third strategy that is Use of Group-based Activities, teachers can deal with the amount of equipment and materials depending on the groups and are able to move flexible to interact with students. The four strategy is Guiding Students to Reflect on Their Learning Process, which will help to build shared values in the classroom and motivate students to cooperate with the teacher. By this strategy, students will achieve peer self-regulation as well. There are three strategies on classroom organization. Organizing Resources for Investigative Activities is the first one. For a large group of students, the teacher can choose to pack required materials into small unites, which will reduce frequent and disordered movements of students. The second strategy is Seating Arrangement, which involves the tables seated by students should be enough large to cater to a group of students and required materials for experiment,like specimen.In addition, boys and girls should be arranged in balance on a table. Managing Transitions and Gaining Attention is the third strategy, which demands teachers to cope with the frequent transitions between whole-class interactions and small-group activities. Besides, there should be a signal serving as “ATTENTION” to capture students’ attention (Chew-Leng, et al., 2009).


  • on Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:47 AM

It is interesting that no matter where a teacher is in the world, there are things basic to every classroom. Classroom management is one of those. This article describes how a teacher in Singapore manages her science classroom for the most effective way to teach inquiry based learning. It has some helpful basic information.

Betty P  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty P (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:37 PM

The article presents a case study of a teacher's classroom where she has developed successful strategies to manage inquiry in a large class (43 students!). However, many of the strategies mentioned could be further developed in additional articles and some may not work for all. That is not to say these are not all good ways to manage, just that this style may not work for all teachers. A good article for any grade level that shows that inquiry can be accomplished with pre-planning, authentic activities, and good classroom management.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

  • on Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:45 PM

This article outlines seven practical strategies that focus on managing an inquiry- based classroom. The srategies outlined would help a teacher with both the logistical and instructional challenges of managing such a classroom.

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

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