Eric Sinko- Mini Course on Inquiry Learning


Overview and Purpose:

The purpose of this course is to better inform teachers on Project Based Inquiry Learning. The stakeholders will learn what Project Based Inquiry Learning is, how it benefits student performance, and how to properly design various styles of Inquiry Projects. This course will provide design ideas for teachers to create their content around. Mastering this course will allow teachers to create extra opportunities for students to practice literacy and content knowledge skills in their class. This project based learning style is flexible, provides choice of activities and allows the teacher to tailor resources and compelling questions to their course no matter what subject is being taught. The over arching idea of Project Based Inquiry Learning is simple. The goal is to create materials that allow students to investigate topics within a variety of resources and project formats. This is designed to create student-led learning activities; student-led learning activities improve communication, peer learning, teamwork, leadership, ownership, problem solving, question asking skills, and long term content retention. So many skills are provided and improved for the student with Project Based Inquiry Learning because the student is at the center of the learning. Skills like gathering evidence and using primary sources are present in confirmation inquiry projects. These skills are transferable between subject areas and improve student's academic skills overall in school. By taking this course, teachers will master understanding how to organize and create documents for the Inquiry Project format. Teachers will learn how to link sources and learn about the endless variety of sources that are available. Teachers will also learn about the different styles of Inquiry projects, such as collaborative peer learning activities. Lastly, teachers will understand how to close these projects properly with a variety of presentations and sharing ideas for the classroom.

Performance Objectives:

- Understanding what Project Based Inquiry learning is and how it impacts the learner differently than traditional teacher-led lecturing

- Understanding how to create compelling questions and documents for note gathering, evidence gathering, and project assessments

- Understanding how to link sources and provide engaging sources that fit your learners needs and interests

- Understanding how to incorporate choice and student's interests, culture, and learning styles within the project

- Understanding the variety of sizes and forms inquiry learning is presented in such as Confirmation Inquiry pieces and Collaborative Inquiry ideas

- Understanding how to formally share out and present student findings

Course Units:

  1. Introduction to Project Based Inquiry Learning and Project Format
  2. Learn how to create compelling questions and project templates
  3. Learn how create different styles of Project Based Inquiry Learning
  4. Learn various forms of presentations and closing activities for student findings
Students Working on an Experiment.jpg

Unit 1- Introduction to Inquiry Learning

In this module you will be learning about the overall structure of inquiry learning, what inquiry learning is, and the skills created when proper inquiry learning is performed.

Learning Objective 1:

The goal is to learn about the overall structure of inquiry learning. You will be learning about the vast varieties of inquiry learning and the numerous cross content skills that are presented within this learning style. Please fill out the quiz at the end of the introduction to confirm your understanding of effective inquiry learning.

Please Begin the Course by Watching this Introduction Video

Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning Video>

Over the past forty years researchers and educators have been reforming the education system with new ideas in hopes to raise graduation rates, standardized testing scores, and student success beyond high school. Our national education system has tried to raise funding for education and change the national curriculum, but statistics seem to stay the same decade after decade. The good news is that educators and professionals in the field are still working tirelessly, doing research to improve the national education system here in the United States. With new technology being presented to society each year, schools have adopted this technology in hopes to improve education. This new technology has created new innovative theories and avenues to approach education. One learning theory that is coming to the forefront is student-led instruction and curriculum. Shifts in education are showing that teachers are being taught to get away from traditional teacher-led methods that just do not seem to work efficiently. Combined with this new student-led teaching theory, technology is now allowing teachers to make engaging lesson plans that have the students doing all of the work. This new teaching strategy allows students to take complete ownership of their curriculum and it increases long term retention. This new learning strategy is called inquiry based learning. Inquiry based learning allows students to investigate key learning objectives, at their own pace, using a variety of sources and technology that best fit their learning needs.

Inquiry based learning is exciting because there is an infinite amount of creations within the inquiry learning process. The teacher can make a variety of essential questions that hit key administrative needs, while using an infinite number of resources for the students to complete their investigation. This type of learning is exciting for students because they can dive into the content either individually or in small groups. By investigating the topics themselves instead of being told the content, the student can make significant finds and connections to their own personal interests. An example of this might be investigating different immigrant groups entering Ellis Island during the Immigration wave and diving deep into an investigation about Lithuanian immigrants because this is culturally relevant to their life and family. This creates sincere curiosity and motivation to learn, which are key factors in long term retention. As long as the teacher has constructed an inquiry with clearly defined goals, clear instructions, and valuable resources. The student should be able to exercise freedom when investigating the topic at hand.

One of the many benefits for inquiry based learning is choice; the teacher has a variety of styles they can pick from. The teacher can select a confirmation, guided, structured, or open inquiry. The teacher can create a collaborative group activity or an individual investigation. Also the teacher can add as many resources as they would like and tailor these resources to the student’s learning style. Choice and autonomy improve a student's motivation. Motivation is a driving factor in a students success and work ethic. By using inquiry based learning you are creating active and motivated learners. Once you have motivated learners you can begin to teach many skills through inquiry based learning. Many of these skills are transferable to all subjects and they help improve job readiness for students. When working within a collaborative inquiry students are working on their team working skills which is relatable for many careers. When students prepare their findings to be shared with the class, they are working on meeting deadlines and oral speaking skills that can also improve job readiness. When working within the inquiry piece students are learning how to use and find academic sources. Students are learning how to gather evidence and make claim statements to complete their investigation as well. All of these skills present themselves within inquiry learning because the student is engaged in the work and actively taking ownership of their course work for hours if not days at a time. During this course we will show you effective ways to highlight these desirable skills during our inquiry learning tutorial.

- Now that you have completed our introduction module please fill out this quiz to confirm your understanding.

Introduction QUIZ

Unit 2- Creating Proper Compelling Questions & Inquiry Learning Documents

In this module you will learn about proper document formation and you will be provided an example of a full set up inquiry piece that you can navigate through to learn from. You will also be provided guidance on how to properly write good investigation questions that make the learner actively think and learn.

Learning Objective 1:

The goal is to learn how to properly write compelling questions to stimulate investigation. You will also be learning how to properly write questions then align documents that flow nicely with that investigation question. Another goal during this module is to learn how to properly organize documents. Using the example provided you will navigate the example as if you are the student so you can see what this document looks like on their end. This module is emphasizing how paramount it is within inquiry learning to create a organized well designed assessment for the student to execute their investigation.

Impact of Writing Good Compelling Questions:

A key component to successful inquiry projects is creating good deep compelling questions that will guide the students' thought process and investigation. These compelling questions should help the students problem solve within the content and also come up with their own questions on the content topic presented. When this process happens correctly, it creates active learning where the student is investigating deep layers on their own within the learning objective. The student is now leading their own learning and taking ownership of the content.  Also, by providing an effective set of compelling questions, the teacher is modeling successful dialogue for the activity. The teacher is setting the expectations for the inquiry investigation. Now the student has the ability to measure successful questions that they may come up with as they complete the inquiry. This type of inquiry would be known as an open inquiry, where the students will design their own questions throughout the investigation. Writing good compelling or essential questions to base the inquiry around, also allows students to effectively use outside knowledge to bring into their investigation. Not only that, but it helps students use the work they have already completed in the class, and they can bring that course knowledge into their answers as they complete the project. This skill is very transferable, using information from the class in your answer is a skill most subjects are looking for.

Use the Links Below to Navigate an Inquiry Model

Goal= Study how the teacher uses the compelling and essential question to set the stage for the investigation. Notice how the teacher uses the essential question to transition the investigation into the writing assessment. Also make note of the various organizers, resources, and overall set up of the inquiry project.

Compelling Question/Inquiry Opening template/Sources

Inquiry Writing Assessment part 2 of inquiry here

Unit 3- Learning Different styles and forms for Inquiry Learning

In this module you will learn about the various forms of Project Based Inquiry Learning and also how to create collaborative small group activities that promote many transferable real world skills.

- First we will develop a complete understanding of the various forms within Inquiry Learning in learning objective 1.

- Lastly we will learn about collaborative inquiry activities in learning objective 2.

Learning Objective 1:

The goal is to navigate the source below to understand the various forms that inquiry based learning can provide for the teacher within their class. The next step is to identify the key principles that make a inquiry project effective and also identifying what to look for when observing your students completing an inquiry project. The formations you design and principles you observe may vary based on age of student and class size. By learning about these formations in full, you will certainly find a style that fits your class and teaching style best.

Various Forms of Project Based Inquiry Learning:

- Confirmation Inquiry= the learner is provided resources and a essential question to investigate. The end result is established before hand and the learner needs to confirm this end result with their investigation.

- Structured Inquiry= the learner again is given an essential question and the goal is to provide an explanation while investigating

- Guided Inquiry= learners are only provided an essential question and resources. Then they will have to find the best method of investigation in order to best test the question provided.

- Open Inquiry= learners must form their own questions within the content investigation and come up with compelling ideas with their research

Source= Please use this source below to learn about various form of Project Based Inquiry Learning Learn about various Forms of Inquiry Learning

Essential Question Check-In: After reading the article above please complete this document below.

Essential Question Check-In Sheet

Learning Objective 2:

The goal in this objective is to learn about the benefits of collaborative learning inquiry activities. This section of the course will not only explain the benefits of collaboration but it will also present an example of collaborative learning activities for your teacher tool box.

Collaborative Learning:

One of the major options for inquiry based learning is small group collaboration. This presents a variety of amazing skills and opportunities for students. This layer to inquiry learning provides that much needed peer learning every classroom strives to have. Peer learning improves retention. Peer learning and collaboration can also provide social skills and friendships that many students need after being in a remote learning environment for years during the pandemic. Collaboration and small group work can also help with classroom management, as it eases the urge to talk and get out of the classroom for breaks during traditional lecturing. Collaborative small group work has proven to help students with team work skills, time on task, and peer interactions that are needed in many careers.

Please view this example of Collaborative Inquiry Learning so you can learn about template and transitioning of Collaborative Inquiry pieces!

Collaborative Inquiry Example. Click here!!

Unit 4- Presenting Inquiry Findings (Closing Activity)

In this final module, you will be learning about the importance of inquiry presentations. This process can come in many forms and is really flexible. It is paramount that every inquiry piece ends with a final presentation or assessment to ensure the investigation is completed correctly.

Learning Objective 1:

The goal in this module is to understand the importance of closing activities. You will also learn the benefits of closing activities. Lastly, you will see an example of a closing activity, but this is not limited to one option. You will understand the students can write an essay to finish the inquiry, share findings orally, make posters, create a slideshow, or create a jam board slideshow that engages the class. Once you have completed this module, you have completed the course.

Understanding the Importance of a Proper Closing Activity:

The final layer to the inquiry learning process is sharing out ideas and findings with classmates. This is a crucial step to the inquiry process. This promotes ownership for students, they are usually proud of their work and investigation. It helps students improve public speaking skills and presentation skills that are paramount to the work environment. More importantly, it increases motivation to work hard because students usually want to impress their peers when performing in the classroom. This is all promoting a healthy active learning environment in the classroom. Also, the teacher can create a system where the students are teaching each other throughout the curriculum. For example, the teacher can vary the investigation topics within the unit. Have each student or peer group investigate a different learning standard or administrative need. After they have completed the investigation, the students can then go around and share their findings while the rest of the class takes notes on the topic. The students can then turn into the teacher, lead discussion, and answer questions because the student is now the expert on that topic they investigated. The teacher can provide guidance and assure the information being presented to the class is accurate. This is the ultimate student-led type of instruction every educator is striving for in their classroom. It also demonstrates again how flexible inquiry learning can be, and the level of scaffolding can be as big or small as you want it to be as you prepare this type of lesson for your class.

Use Link Below to see an example of a share out presentation!

Student Jam board Presentation (Collaborative student led closing activity)


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Darling-Hammond, L. et al. (2008). Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.