UNIT 1 - A Quick Review of Inquiry-Based Learning


Objectives for Unit 1:

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

  • Understand what inquiry is by summarizing the characteristic inquiry-based environments have and discriminating between inquiry and directed learning
  • How to use inquiry methods in teaching

What is Inquiry?


"Inquiry is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other sources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is already known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results (National Research Council 1996, p. 23, in Nelson and Ketelhut, 2007).

Inquiry based learning is a student-centered learning environment where students engage directly with the real-world. In inquiry based learning, students seek answers to to their own questions and must make decisions, not just follow directions, and reflect upon those decisions to solve problems. A wide variety of resources are used along with support from the instructor to help facilitate deeper understanding.

The focus of this mini-course is not solely on what inquiry-based learning is, but rather how we can use simulations for inquiry learning. There are many very good resources on what exactly inquiry learning is including a mini-course on inquiry found here. Please browse this very good resource on inquiry-based learning and make a few notes about what inquiry-based learning is and what characteristics inquiry-based environments have. Then, using the "back" button on your browser, please return here.

Characteristics of Inquiry-Based Learning

After browsing the resource on inquiry-based learning, you should have noted that inquiry-based environments have the following characteristics:

  • Student-centered - students work actively and collaboratively, asking questions they seek answers to. Students creatively come up with their own ideas for solving the problems using their prior knowledge.
  • Students take responsibility for their own learning - the creative development and/or use of of models and resources allows students to test and analyze ideas as the search for solutions.
  • Students construct knowledge by building upon what they already know. Through collaboration with others and through personal reflection, an exchange of ideas brings about a deeper understanding of problems they discover solutions to.
  • Teacher acts as a facilitator to help guide and provide support to the problem-solving process.

Todo.jpgActivity #1: Which is Inquiry?

For each of the following, describe whether they represent Inquiry-based learning or directed learning. Post your answers in the Simulations for Inquiry Discussion Area and support your responses with a short, one to two sentence justification. Share/Discuss with the other participants one or two other examples from your experience that may be inquiry-based or directed learning.

  • Students memorize factual information to answer multiple-choice type assessments.
  • Students develop a method for determining the rising and setting position of the Sun throughout the year.
  • Students write in a journal to express their thoughts on how certain current events related to the natural world affect them.
  • Students copy notes from the board and use those notes to answer a set of textbook questions.
  • Teacher has students memorize multiplication tables to learn how to multiply
  • Students work in small groups and conduct an experiment on stream erosion to determine which size particles are carried by a stream the furthest and fastest.
  • Students work in assigned roles of their choosing to record a video of a weather cast.
  • Teacher has students work collaboratively to develop a project of their choosing on an important concept to be discussed.
  • Students reflect upon and share their own experiences with a group and discuss the possible implications.
  • Students learn about the benefits and problems associated with where they live.

Review What We've Learned

Inquiry-based learning involves students actively involved in the learning process and the teacher is a facilitator of the learning process. Student made observations are the basis for all inquiry and that experimentation allows students to construct meaning. Students communicate what they know through a variety of means, and knowledge is gained as students reflect upon what they have experienced and build upon what they already know.

Todo.jpgActivity #2: Reflection Activity

Using what you have learned thus far about inquiry-based learning, how could a teacher recreate a real problem about the natural world without actually going outside the classroom to experience? Post your response in the Simulations for Inquiry Discussion Area for other participants to contemplate and respond to at least one other participant's post.

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

Simulations for Inquiry Course home page