At a recent regional workshop I facilitated, teachers and administrators gathered to learn and apply the principles of structuring their own inquiry-based learning activity. While inquiry-based activities are traditionally seen in science instruction, teachers branched out and tried their hands at designing an activity aimed at a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) program. The graphic below was developed by Chelsey Rhodes (business teacher) and Liz Parra (Special Education teacher) from Brocton Central Schools for a learning target focused on teaching time-management skills. Another teacher tried her hand at designing an interdisciplinary lesson which integrates Spanish vocabulary into Science content. A third inquiry lesson was developed to help teach middle school students about the interconnectedness of the different body systems.
After being presented with a model, students are asked a series of questions to guide them through the learning phases of exploration, concept invention, and application. By completing this cycle, students are able to work collaboratively through a process that will encourage them to formulate their own understanding of a concept and then use that concept to apply their learning to a real-life situation.Developing an inquiry-based learning activity is like reverse-engineering the learning that students will need to do to meet the standard or objective that is central to the lesson. The learning takes longer in this mode, because students are forced to think things out for themselves, thereby embedding differentiated learning within the structure of the lesson. Students are not being asked to memorize or interact with the information on a superficial level, but rather to dissect the model given and interact with the information on a deep level in order to make sense of the task being asked of them.
The basic principles of Inquiry-based instruction are universal and can be employed in any content area. If this strategy can benefit all students, it should be employed more often than traditional teacher-centered instruction.