What is inquiry? The Exploratorium
Institute for Inquiry defines it as
Inquiry is an approach to learning that involves a
process of exploring the natural or material world, that leads to
asking questions and making discoveries in the search for new
A Model of Inquiry
Inquiry begins with the learner
thinking about his world and asking questions. There is a spiral path
which a student would typically follow in the course of discovery.
meaningful questions generated by observation of the world around you;
confront a problem or issue.
the question by formulating a plan of action: gather information
through research, or gather data through search of existing databases
or through experimentation. This process will involve defining
procedures, and evaluating data in regard to its relevance to answering
new connections, new knowledge, new meaning through interaction with
the data. The process of the synthesis of meaning takes place as the
learner shapes new thoughts and ideas.
and share new ideas with others; the learner interacts with others
about their own experiences and investigations.
on the results of the questioning, investigating, and creation process.
Examine the conclusions made, make new observations, and ask new
Other models of inquiry actually
start with the reflection node. In actuality, one may start at any
point in the spiral path; for example, in the course of investigating
data for a particular question, new questions and a new direction may
suddenly emerge, and lead to a new path of inquiry.
Supporting Student Inquiry
How can you as teacher support and
facilitate student-centered inquiry?
- If you start with the Reflect
stage, you can supply a hook to spark interest, something for the
students to reflect upon.
- Encourage students to ask
questions; lead them in question-generating techniques (i.e.,
- As students investigate, help
them to define procedures that are rigorous enough to produce valid
results. Assist them in locating relevant data sources.
- Provide students with
knowledge-creation tools (spreadsheets, concept-mapping software,
database creation software, etc), and teach them the skills to use
- Provide for collaborative
learning environments to allow discussion of ideas and interaction with
- Finally, allow reflection to
give direction into new areas of exploration.
page for additional information relating to today's topics.
Clip art licensed from the
Clip Art Gallery
The Inquiry Page
to Classroom – Workshops on Inquiry Learning,
Constructivism, Webquests, Multiple Intelligence's, etc
Institute for Inquiry
teAchnology's page on Inquiry-based