How Inquiry-Based Learning Works With STEM

Learning through inquiry is not a new concept – at all. Much of the more general life- learning that we do as humans is based on inquiry. Here’s a basic example: As a baby, you saw a ‘thing’ across the room. Your little brain wondered what it was, so you crawled over to it and inspected it. You looked at it, touched it, and determined you wanted to play with it.

While babies may not be able to construct thorough explanations and communicate their questions and findings, the inquiry based learning concept is definitely there. As babies grow and turn into students, this style of learning can serve them well, especially in science. The handy infographic below takes a look at the steps of learning through inquiry, as well as some statistics on the importance of science education in the future. Keep reading to learn more.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Children can learn problem solving skills using methods similar to the ones scientists employ that will lead them through parallel stages of discovery. Young children learn to:

  • Develop questions
  • Collect evidence
  • Form a decision
  • Construct explanations
  • Communicate logically and clearly

The National Science Resources Center (NSRC) has developed a similar learning cycle for science education, which they’ve called the FERA cycle.

  • Focus – on a topic, generating interest and conceptualizing what learners already know about a topic
  • Explore – objects, organisms, and scientific phenomena that build on the prior knowledge
  • Reflect – on observations and data, revisit prior ideas, and develop and refine explanations
  • Apply – understanding of science concepts to new situations and prepare to repeat the learning cycle

A Few STEM Numbers

  • Retention rates in STEM subjects are low – less than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field actually end up doing so
  • 1/2 of all STEM jobs don’t require a degree, and pay on average 10% higher than non-STEM based jobs
  • By 2018, there will be a demand for more than a million more professionals with STEM degrees
  • Women in STEM careers make about 33% more money than women in other fields