Thursday, March 12, 2015

Inquiry is not just go find out kids!!

 Teacher support for inquiry

In viewing numerous classroom scenarios on inquiry, we see the principle of inductive reasoning at the center of the teacher’s approach. Students begin with a source – a cup or a dress and their thinking and reasoning is guided to begin firstly with the particular and then branching out to the more general.

Inductive reasoning means restricting oneself to sources and then formulating statements based on them. Sources are used as a starting point to inquiry, - further research will hopefully result from this activity. The kind of research the students will be carrying out will be inductive as they will be establishing facts directly referred to by the sources and they will be making inferences from the sources they are working with and researching further.

Principle number 1. Start with the particular, move out to the general. Otherwise the opposite of this is deductive reasoning which consists in passing from the ‘the universal’ to ‘the particular’. It is less likely that a primary school student will know how to draw conclusions from certain general truths.

The second principle that underpins this type of inquiry is active, student centred learning – but well supported and scaffolded by the teacher. It’s what Webster calls “light assistance”. Pedagogically speaking the approach is robust – it sits very much within a context of social constructivism. The interaction between you and the student is crucial even though you may think this approach is all about handing over responsibility for learning to the student. Yes, that’s partly true. Good inquiry methodology results in the interaction between adult and student guiding student thinking (From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side). Teachers have a vital role to play developing effective inquiry learning which includes initiating good questions to research and to analyse and to come up with reasoned meaningful conclusions. By promoting active learning – that is not just doing but thinking-- in classrooms the learning outcomes are more likely to become intellectually embedded says Hutchings, “what we discover, we retain”

The third principle underpinning inquiry learning is the use of open ended questioning, resulting in deep levels of engagement with problems that are likely to be multifaceted and complex. Its nature is exploratory (Hutchings, 2007). Hutchings says that the core of inquiry is the question and it is in the formulation and ‘or the analysis of that question that the important initial intellectual activity takes place. Philosophically it is a Socratic based activity - Socratic perception that our knowledge is formed by questions.

Students participate in acts of discovery, grappling with different ways of looking at ideas and issues and thinking creatively about problems that do not necessarily have simple answers.

The 'Instructional Strategies online' site succinctly sums up inquiry methodology when it says:

Using inquiry, students become actively involved in the learning process as they:

* act upon their curiosity and interests;
* develop questions;
* think their way through controversies or dilemmas;
* look at problems analytically;
* inquire into their preconceptions and what they already know;
* develop, clarify, and test hypotheses; and,
* draw inferences and generate possible solutions.

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