Simulations for Inquiry Course


Author:Thomas Cutonilli


Students have traditionally been taught through lectures, notes, and textbooks where a great deal of information is often obtained, but not often understood, retained, or able to be transferred. In order for students to understand concepts and transfer this knowledge to other contexts, students must be able to build upon what they already know. Inquiry learning, a process where students are engaged in activities that involve making observations, asking critical questions, experimenting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions about the world, allows students to make their own decision and to explore answers to their own questions to build meaning. Often however, natural phenomena are difficult or impossible to explore in classroom settings. Computer simulations can realistically represent natural phenomena and allow students to manipulate and explore these phenomena and gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the phenomena.

This mini-course is designed to give participants an authentic experience on how using a simple simulation of a natural phenomena can help to create an inquiry-based classroom. It is my hope that participants in this mini-course will appreciate the benefits of using simulations in promoting critical thinking skills in their students.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the characteristics of inquiry-based learning
  • Understand what simulations are
  • Understand why simulations can be used for student inquiry
  • Generate list of possible difficulties and learning supports when using simulations
  • Demonstrate how the use of simulations promotes inquiry by providing an example of the application of a simulation in a lesson on a natural event and any teacher facilitated supports required for its effective use.

UNIT 1 - A Quick Review of Inquiry-Based Learning

UNIT 2 - Simulations: Bringing the Natural World to the Classroom

UNIT 3 - A Real Experience

List of Resources

Thomas Cutonilli's Portfolio Page

Thomas Cutonilli Home Page