Inquiry LearningDavid GeelanUniversity of Queensland
Inquiry is not constructivism, although it isa teaching-learning approach that isconsistent with constructivist theoriesabout knowing and learning.
Inquiry can be open-entry (starts with abroad question but ends up with thedevelopment of a pre-planned scientificconcept, for example) or open-ended(inquiry into a social or technologicalquestion where each student ends up witha different answer).
Inquiry is about asking questions in class.It’s about what kinds of questions are asked(just factual recall, or synthesis andapplication, or life-application, or open-entry/ended inquiry questions). It’s alsoabout who asks the questions – the teacheror the students? And even if the teacherasks the question, do the students come to‘own’ it during the inquiry?
Inquiry does not mean that the teacher’srole disappears or is minimised… theteacher is actively involved in planning forinquiry and in facilitating and supportingthe students’ activities at every stage.
Students can develop new concepts (forthem) in the process of inquiry, but theyare unlikely to arrive at the samevocabulary and conventions ofcommunication that scientists use, so theteacher has an important role in‘translating’ student concepts intoscientific language, and in teachingscientific language.
Inquiry can include library and websearches, but should not be limited tothese. Considering that scientific conceptsare tested (in experiments) against thereal world, inquiry lessons that includereal experiments are likely to be verypowerful.
An important part of the teacher’s role is managing students’ engagement and attention. A small amount of frustration can be helpful if it is encouraging students to explore and find ways to satisfy their curiosity, but too much frustration can lead students to give up. In that situation it’s important for the teacher to come in with a hint or suggestion to allow some progress to be made and students to feel successful.