The field of education has a lot of buzzwords and trends that come and go – this is not a blog about one of those things.
Inquiry-based learning has been around since Socrates, although he probably didn’t call it that. It is something that teachers likely include as part of their curriculum without intentionally putting it there. It is a tried-and-true method of student-centered instruction, and one that can – and should – be a major part of your daily lessons.
Students are more likely to commit to learning if they feel like they are in control. Inquiry-based learning allows you, as a teacher, to guide students toward a subject or lesson, but allows them to ask the questions and find the answers.
A shift from completely structured lessons to ones that are student-led is a hard transition to make sometimes, but establishing a classroom culture that encourages critical thinking and respect is a great place to start.
Here are some suggestions for readying your classroom for inquiry-based learning:
- Build your own inquiry skills
The most difficult part of leading inquiry-based lessons is knowing how to ask the right questions to keep students moving towards the goal of the lesson, but still allow them to lead the way. Questions need to logically follow one another and bring the focus back to the lesson. This comes with practice, but some teachers suggest that studying up on philosophy can also help you become a better questioner.
- Encourage inquiry in regular lessons
There are many ways to do this – have students keep a question journal where they can write down things they want to learn, make essential questions for each lesson a prominent feature as you start and close the lesson, make mind maps or other visual representations of the lesson – but the important thing is to ease into the role of guide and let the students ask questions and determine what they don’t know. Then, you can help them toward the answers to those questions.
- Use the technology available to you
Students are accustomed to using Twitter chats, group messages, and emojis to express their thoughts and feelings. Allow your students to engage with material in media that they are comfortable in. The more comfortable students are asking questions and sharing thoughts and opinions, the easier the transition to a student-led lesson will be.
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