Chelsi's Educational Musings

Module #6 – Inquiry-Based Learning

The question…

How can we prevent inquiry-based education from becoming just another bandwagon?

My thoughts…

After reading through the documents presented on the Saskatchewan Youth Heritage Fairs Online Portal, I really appreciated the vast amount of inquiry-based topics and ideas presented to each grade for their Heritage Fair.  No longer is the project simply, “Research about your culture and present it with some nice food to share for everyone” as it was when I was in school.  The “Big Ideas” incorporate all of the Multiple Intelligence strands and there is such a variety of topics that students have much more of an opportunity of being successful.  They will be learning authentically through this inquiry-based opportunity, as they will be able to choose the project that suits their learning style and interest.  Simply looking at the verbs at the beginning of each sentence of the Big Ideas illustrates that more than looking up information on a specific topic is taking place – analyze, design, create, compare, evaluate, investigate, conduct, demonstrate, model, and distinguish – all tasks of higher-level learning and skill building.

What, then, is “inquiry”?  The SYHF site defines inquiry as “a process where students are involved in their learning, formulate questions, investigate widely and then build new understandings, meanings and knowledge.”  After reading this definition, I thought to myself that when teaching students, shouldn’t our goal always be inquiry-based learning?  We should be questioning students, having them formulate their own questions and knowledge, and in all, learning authentically.  Why would we not teach this way all of the time?  The answer, I feel, is time and resources.  Many teachers would probably agree to the simplicity of teaching out of a textbook versus creating a WebQuest or using Web 2.0 tools to lead the students through inquiry-based lessons.  However, anyone who has seen a student learning through inquiry-based lessons and activities knows how important it is to cultivate and facilitate that learning.  I feel that in order to prevent inquiry-based learning from becoming just another bandwagon, teachers need to be provided with resources such as what Steve and Teacher Resource Guides provide.  Teachers who do not feel that they have the time to devote to planning inquiry-based lessons, who would rather pull out the old, trusty textbook rather than plan something new, will at least have access to and be more willing to use inquiry-based learning lessons if they are created and shared by other teachers.  Perhaps to prevent inquiry-based education from fading away, professional development sessions surrounding inquiry-based education could be developed.  Providing teachers with in-school time to learn about using the inquiry-based lessons, Web 2.0 tools, or simply a time to trade ideas and share with other teachers about the success of the inquiry-based lessons would prevent this excellent and engaging education practice from disappearing.

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