Sarah Davis & Laura Oehler
November 23, 2003
EDTC 654, Dr. Lauren Cifuentes
What is Inquiry?
"Inquiry is the active pursuit of meaning involving thought processes
that change experience to bits of knowledge. When we see a strange
object, for example, we may be puzzled about what it is, what it is
made of, what it is used for, how it came into being, and so forth. To
find answers to questions such as these we might examine the object
closely, subject it to certain tests, compare it with other, more familiar
objects, or ask people about it, and for a time our searching would be
aimed at finding out whether any of these theories made sense. Or we
might simply cast about for information that would suggest new theories
for us to test. All these activities---observing, theorizing, experimenting,
theory testing---are part of inquiry. The purpose of the activity is to
gather enough information to put together theories that will make new
experiences less strange and more meaningful."
(Suchman, 1968, p.1)
Where did Inquiry come from?
• J. Richard Suchman (coined the term)
“Inquiry is the way people learn when they're left alone."
• Dates as far back as Socrates and the Socratic Method.
• John Dewey
• Constructivism: people construct their own understanding and
knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on
• Dewey's philosophy of education, instrumentalism (also called
pragmatism), focused on learning-by-doing rather than rote learning
and dogmatic instruction, the current practice of his day.
• Dewey called for education to be grounded in real experience. He
wrote, "If you have doubts about how learning happens, engage in
sustained inquiry: study, ponder, consider alternative possibilities and
arrive at your belief grounded in evidence." Inquiry is a key part of
Major Contributors (1 of 2)
*Lead students through a series of questions
*Promoted critical thinking
*Children should learn what they want to learn
*Promoted the idea of learning through nature
Jean Jacques Rousseau
*Believed that knowledge comes from experiences and reflecting on/questioning those
*Utilized the scientific method for students to learn through predictions, experiments, and
*Focused on the learner and his/her environment
*Emphasized the power of students' natural curiosity
*Promoted the importance of a "community of learners"
John Dewey *Encouraged the use of manipulative materials for involvement and understanding
Major Contributors (2 of 2)
*Believed that children construct their own knowledge
*Focused on discovery and active involvement of the student
*Stressed the importance of teaching children at a developmentally appropriate level
*Emphasized the role of prior knowledge
*Strong belief in knowledge construction: introduced the concept that as people learn, they
either assimilate knowledge into their existing mental schemas, or they adjust their mental
schemas to accept the new knowledge.
*Believed that children create their own concepts
*Developed the concept of assisted learning, or Social Constructivism
*Strong emphasis on the use of prior knowledge and scaffolding
*Proposed that the role of the teacher is to support and guide learning by helping them develop
higher level thinking skills, which they could then use independently.
*Defined the theory of Discovery Learning, where students discover knowledge for
themselves through experimentation and exploration
*Emphasized that teachers role is to guide student learning
*Believed in the importance of students using their prior knowledge and experiences in
*Looked upon learning as an active and social process
Constructivism vs Inquiry
• A theory about how people learn.
• People construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world
through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.
• Encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments, problem
solving) to create more knowledge, to reflect on and talk about what
they are doing and how their understanding is changing.
• Often used as a tool for constructivism.
• A seeking for truth, information, or knowledge by questioning.
• Emphasis on the development of inquiry skills and the nurturing of
inquiring attitudes or habits of mind.
• Implementing inquiry into the classroom involves a context for
questions, a framework for questions, a focus for questions, and
different levels of questions.
Project, Problem and Inquiry
• Project-based Learning
An approach to learning focusing on developing a product or creation.
The project may or may not be student-centered, problem-based, or
• Problem-based Learning
An approach to learning focusing on the process of solving a problem and
acquiring knowledge. The approach is also inquiry-based when students
are active in creating the problem.
• Inquiry-based Learning
A student-centered, active learning approach focusing on questioning,
critical thinking, and problem-solving. It's associated with the idea "involve
me and I understand.“
• These all may be considered Constructivist Methods
Spiral Path of Inquiry
Discrepant Events — Example of Inquiry
• Phenomena that seem to run contrary to what we normally expect. The
outcomes or results are very different from what we might think would
• Mechanical bird that drinks water.
• Boiled egg that can squeeze inside a narrow neck bottle.
• Ice sinking in clear liquid.
• J. Richard Suchman (1962) developed the use of Discrepant Events as
an inquiry technique for science teaching and learning.
• Long been used by science educators to stimulate students' interest and
• Human mind is intolerant of discrepancies. Observing something that
does not fit with what one believes should be happening. Leaves the
observer with a "wanting to know" feeling.
• Student centered. Requires the students to ask questions in their search
for answers. http://www.plu.edu/~vedrosr/discrepant.html
Suchman’s Inquiry Training Model
1. The teacher presents students with a puzzling situation
or event. Students are allowed to ask the teacher
questions that must be answered by a “yes” or “no”. The
purpose of this phase is to verify the facts.
2. Students next gather information and verify the
occurrence of the puzzling situation.
3. Students identify relevant variables, hypothesize and
test causal relationships.
4. Next, the teacher asks students to organize the data
and formulate an explanation for the puzzle.
5. Finally, students analyze their pattern of inquiry and
How is the fortune put into a fortune cookie?
Students in Inquiry-Based Learning
• Students view themselves as learners in the process
• Students accept an "invitation to learn" and willingly
engage in an exploration process.
• Students raise questions, propose explanations, and
• Students plan and carry out learning activities.
• Students communicate using a variety of methods.
• Students critique their learning practices.
Teachers in Inquiry-Based Learning
FACILITATOR OF LEARNING.
• The teacher reflects on the purpose and makes
plans for inquiry learning.
• The teacher facilitates classroom learning.
• Teacher models inquiry by asking leading
• The teacher allows for diversions from the intended
goal… values what the students want to learn.
Questions Teachers Might Ask
• What does this make you think of? • What do you call the things you are
• In what ways are these different? using?
• In what ways are these the same? • What can you tell me about the
• What materials did you use? things you have?
• What would happen if you ... • Tell me what it looks like.
• What might you try instead? • How are you going to do that?
• Tell me about your ...? • What do you feel, see, hear, taste,
• What does it look like? smell?
• What does it remind you of? • How did you do that?
• What does it feel like? • What will you do next after you finish
• What can you do next time? that?
• What can you tell me about it? • Is there anything else you could
• Tell me what happened. do/use?
• What could you do instead? • How do you know?
• Which one do you have more of? • What are some different things you
• Is one object longer/shorter than could try?
another? • Show me what you could do with it?
• What is it made of?
Strengths of Inquiry
• Emphasis is put on understanding and learning, not on
• Students have understanding of the larger concepts related
to specific concepts.
• Inquiry develops the mind for a lifetime quest of knowledge
• Inquiry activities can be more engaging and interesting to
students than “chalk and talk”.
• Works with any age group so it can be applied in many
different educational settings.
• Builds off all experiences and knowledge that students bring
to the classroom, no matter how diverse these may be.
Weaknesses of Inquiry
• Enough specific topics may not be covered in a
school year when only Inquiry is used.
• Many students do not know how to ask questions
so teachers first attempts at Inquiry may seem
difficult or discouraging
• Inquiry focuses on helping children ask questions.
Therefore, instructors must learn the art of asking
Implications for Instructional Designers
• When designing instruction, designers must take care to
identify situations where active learning, constructivism
and inquiry are appropriate.
• Inquiry learning IS a structured environment and can be
supported by various technologies and educational
• Inquiry based instruction should provide for appropriate
amounts of exploration, inquiry and understanding by the
• Inquiry might be very appropriate in situations where
learners like to find answers for themselves, not be fed a
lot of facts.
• A professional development activity to show how inquiry learning differs from other
types of hands-on activities:
John Dewey Books
• My Pedagogic Creed (1897)
• The School and Society (1900)
• Child and the Curriculum (1902)
• Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the
Philosophy of Education (1916)
• How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of
Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process
• Experience and Education (1938)