Inquiry Is Asking Questions, Isn't It?
Inquiry begins with our own questions, which in turn form the basis for our further explorations and investigations. Inquiry involves using our curiosity and engagement in activities to actively construct knowledge.
Asking good questions, investigating them, developing and understanding the responses or results, and letting those results lead to the next set of questions is the essence of pure science.
Beyond developing an understanding of a general science principle (like the laws of motion), inquiry includes opportunities to explore multiple questions in response to a situation: Which scotch tape will do the job best? Which tape is the most economical? Are both the same product?
Children use the inquiry process from birth as a way to understand their world. An infant reaches for the brightly colored bauble until he learns how to aim his hands and grab. An infant 'tastes' the bauble until he learns that his hand can also 'know' the texture of the toy ….
- students have ownership of their knowledge when they are motivated by their own questions
- inquiry is an equalizer for the diverse backgrounds of students in the classroom
- inquiry builds from students' strengths and background knowledge; there is no fix-up or deficit model of instruction needed
- inquiry is working to make sense of your observations and those of your classmates through discussion and sharing
- inquiry leads to broadened views and consideration of new ideas
- inquiry involves risk taking and experimenting, which can lead to meaningful discoveries
- teachers guide and focus student inquiry by asking open-ended questions at the "right" moment
- inquiry is more a change in attitude and approach than a change in curriculum
- assessment can occur through inquiry as you ask things like, "What do you notice about your shadow on the playground?"
- The National Science Standards advocate an inquiry-based approach to science instruction (browse Standard #12: 'Understands the nature of scientific inquiry' at: http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/Benchmark.asp?SubjectID=2&StandardID=12)
- teachers use inquiry to improve their own classroom practice
For articles about inquiry education in the classroom, visit the Exploratorium site at
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.