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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in inquiry

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Everyone loves a puzzle.

Imaginative educators pull their students in; they intrigue them. They puzzle them. Of course, leaving students puzzling doesn’t mean leaving them utterly confused. By "puzzling" I mean capturing students’ curiosity. Mystery intrigues us; it evokes emotion and imagination. An imaginative educator will model how learning about the world requires an inquiring spirit and a willingness to explore unfamiliar terrain. 


Dr. Kieran Egan suggests that one of the worst (aka:  imagination-dulling) things we can do in schools is present the curriculum topics we are teaching as fully “known”. (e.g. “Look students! Here is all you need to know about cell biology!” or “Here is Algebra—learn this and you know it all!”) Rather, we should present the world—and all our curriculum topics—as part of a great mystery and adventure.  We should identify the unknown. The sense of mystery–like other cognitive tools described in our Tools of Imagination Series–is a powerful support for learning.

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning


In a previous post we explored a potential problem with prepackaged STEM products (or STEM in a box). In short, the problem is when schools and districts invest more in them than they do in their teachers. Because, if the ultimate goal is to leverage these resources to promote inquiry-based learning (which it should be), some form of professional learning is most likely needed, as opposed to simply handing over the goods and believing their potential will be maximized.

Now, let’s examine how teachers can take a product with step-by-step directions and transform/reconfigure it in such a way that inquiry-based learning is promoted…For the purpose of this post, we’ll look at how I previously accomplished this task with solar powered cars, but I believe these same ideas and steps can be applied across countless products/contexts.

The Starting Point

I originally purchased a classroom 10-pack of the car kits from this website (with the intention of having my students work in groups of 2-3), and the directions that came with them can be found here. As you can see, step-by-step errorless construction is endorsed. And, just in case, the website contains a video that demonstrates exactly how these directions should be followed.

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning

With so many different approaches to teaching science, sometimes curriculum can be mystifying to parents and novice teachers. This is a brief overview of the inquiry science model and how it fits into today's science standards. 

Inquiry based science teaching is a way to frame science topics and questions so that students are driven by their own curiosity and discovery to find the answers. The inquiry model can be applied to just about any science lesson or curriculum with a little time and thoughtful preparation by the teacher. Although in many ways the learning in this type of lesson is student driven, teachers who use the inquiry model for their lessons must carefully frame them so that students have the resources, framework and background knowledge they need to be successful.

The “5 E Instructional Model” is a way to guide inquiry instruction. The 5 E’s are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend (or Elaborate) and Evaluate.

During the “engage” portion of a lesson, students are presented with a topic, idea or question that piques their interest and allows them to call upon and make connections with their prior knowledge. “Explore” allows students to directly engage with materials. After students have had a chance to make observations and ask their own questions, the “Explain” phase kicks in. This is where students can share their own explanations and teachers can provide content knowledge that confirms what students have found, or helps to redirect any lingering misconceptions. “Extend” or “Elaborate” is a chance for students to apply their new understanding to a task or further question. The process finishes with “Evaluate”, which is just as it sounds, teachers assess whether or not students have an understanding and mastery of the concept.

For example, an inquiry lesson at the elementary level on flower parts might look something like this:

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


The last several weeks and months have been busy ones as I've been getting used to my new job and figuring out how to manage all the competing priorities in my life.  How does she do it all? Well, I don't always do it all very well, so there's that!

It's been harder, in this new role, to tease apart the thematic threads of my work and to find things that are worth writing about.  It's not that they aren't there, it's just that every day is so different.  Just when an idea springs forward, another idea replaces it, in an endless loop of upstaging.  If I don't have time to write about it right away, poof... it's gone.  People ask me where I went in a week and I have to check my calendar to remind myself.  The whirlwind suits me but it isn't really conducive to thoughtful reflection.

But, as I looked back on my notes over March break, I noticed that one phrase has come up several times in my conversations with Kindergarten teachers.  We talk about their challenges working with an inquiry-based program, often for the first time, and they mention that they're frustrated because, it seems, the "kids aren't interested in anything." 

Now, I've taught a lot of kids over the years, I worked as a nanny and a camp counselor, and I have kids of my own.  I have yet to meet a kid who, literally, isn't interested in anything.

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Posted by on in Inquiry-Based Learning


What is Inquiry?

Inquiry-based learning can be defined as learning that “starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios – rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge. The process is often assisted by a facilitator.”

In short, through some form of productive struggle, students “uncover” material, as opposed to content coverage and the memorization/regurgitation of facts and knowledge…For a look at what this uncovering looks like and why it is so crucial, refer to a previous post, “Why I Refused to Flip My Classroom.” In fact, I highly encourage you to take a few short minutes to read the post and then return to this one.

Regarding this productive struggle, according to John Van de Walle:

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