Students today require authentic teaching and learning practices in order to effectively prepare them for the real-world.
They need to be constructing knowledge instead of having teachers hand it to them and you as a teacher, need to create opportunities for students to teach and learn from each other.
It’s education for the Information Age and it involves there being a shift from traditional classroom approaches to one that is student-centred and consists of driving questions guided by you being the teacher.
Inquiry-based learning has been known as the signature pedagogy of the Technologies Curriculum (Albion et al., 2018), but the principles and practices that follow can be transferred throughout the curriculum into other learning areas such as Science, Maths and even English.
These same steps were taught at one of my lectures for one of my pre-service teachers’ sessions.
Here are the steps you need to take to ensure a successful inquiry learning environment.
Identify the essential questions for learning
To achieve this, ensure that you have a ‘hook’ so that the students will engage in the material when the material is introduced. A good question needs to be open-ended without a factual answer. For example, “what are the stages of photosynthesis?” If you provide these sort of questions, it will lead to more inquiry thus driving the unit of work. By setting good parameters and effective scaffolding, even students who are new this type of learning can also develop their own line of inquiry.
Identify what students need to learn
As Pahomov (2014) states, you need to find where the students will have the space and freedom to construct inquiry of their own. What if, for example, you gave students a checklist of information about a historical era and then allowed them to choose a specific medium for presenting the facts? This could be like a slideshow, essay, podcast or audio recording. For the more advanced students, you offer them control over both content and methods.
How would this work for you?
Build a framework of assessment
One idea is for you is to allow students to write their own checklist or create their own rubric. Rubrics provides students with meaningful feedback throughout a project and helps students keep track of the small details in the process.
Model inquiry on a daily basis
I can’t stress how important this is for you to do in your classroom. If you ensure that inquiry is conducted on a regular basis then students will eventually become familiar to the process and it won’t seem as such a foreign concept to them.
Students need to know that what they are learning will lead to and answer deeper questions that have already been posed or that are being generated throughout their unit of work.
You can transform many of your traditional activities subtly into inquiry-based learning approaches with a minor change in emphasis.
These steps can be transferred throughout the whole curriculum but can especially be used to drive learning in the Technologies Curriculum. It supports student engagement as it will help you to identify the needs and opportunities of students empowering them in the long term.