Inquiry learning is a form of indirect instruction. Indirect instruction is teaching in which the students are actively involved in their learning by seeking solutions to problems or questions. In inquiry learning, students develop and investigate questions that they may have. The focus in inquiry learning is on what the students want to learn with some support from the teacher about a topic. Below are the steps of inquiry learning.
Step 1: Ask
The teacher begins this process by taking the topic of the lesson and turning it into a question for the students to consider. For example, if the topic of a lesson is about flowers, a question to ask would be “How are flowers different from each other?” This is called the teacher-initiated stage of asking.
The student then develops their own questions that should help to answer the main question posed by the teacher. Continuing with the previous example, students may begin to ask specific questions about the various parts of a flower such as…
- What do the pistils do?
- What does the ovary do?
- Why do flowers have petals?
This process is the student-initiated phase of the asking stage.
Step 2: Investigate
After creating questions, students need to determine how to study them. Students need to identify sources from which they can get the information they need. For our flower example, all that is needed is a textbook to find the answers. This may seem simplistic but it would often take children time to figure this out. It is the thinking process of inquiry that is important right now and not the depth thinking.
Step 3: Create
When data has been collected it is time to determine if the questions have been adequately answered. The question to consider is “does the answers satisfy the question completely?” This process of evaluation also helps in developing stronger thinking skills.
If there are problems here, the students can continue to do more research or adjust the questions they are asking. The goal is to evaluate the answers and synthesize them into a coherent structure.
Step 4: Discuss
Here, students share their results. They can compare results, develop conclusions, or share experiences. Explaining results helps students to remember them much better. Examining the results of others can also contribute to developing critical thinking skills.
Step 5: Reflect
In the last step, students think about how things went in the inquiry process. Where the questions appropriate? How was the data collection? Where the conclusions accurate? Are some of the questions that could be considered. All of this information is recorded as a paper, oral presentation, or whatever form is agreed upon by the teacher and students.
If students are satisfied the process stops here. However, if the students believe that the results are not satisfying they may develop new questions to continue the process. As such, the end of an inquiry learning experience is often left for the teacher to decide.