We know certain characteristics can be encouraged, but not taught, like curiosity. But teachers who use an inquiry based approach can provide techniques that help students learn the questions to ask that may spark a natural interest.
Often used by science professionals to work through problems and research, an inquiry-based approach, or inquiry cycle, is also used in classrooms for scientific and non-scientific topics to encourage students during the learning process. The Center for Inspired Teaching, an organization that provides teacher training, explains that in an inquiry-based approach, teachers help students generate their own appropriate questions and guide the investigation.
The Center for Inspired Teaching says this approach helps create life-long learners by:
An inquiry cycle, like the one shown it the graphic above, may start with the current state of mind—what do you know and what do you need to now about this subject—then include the following steps:
As students process this new way of approaching projects, they and their teachers have numerous technological tools to make work easier, so more time can be spent with creative thinking, research and discussions, instead of with project paperwork.
We’ve picked some of the best tools named by Eduwebinar for the each stage of the inquiry cycle.
Step 1: Assessing what is already known. Teachers need to understand a student’s initial knowledge of a topic, and Socrative can help. This web-based smart student response system allows teachers to interact with students through games and exercises. Teachers can start quizzes or ask questions that let them assess each student’s knowledge and development.
Step 2: Knowing what questions to ask. Starting a research project can be overwhelming, and students may struggle just figuring out where to begin. Brainstorming is often a great way to start the thinking process. Bubbl.us offers a mind mapping software to stimulate thoughts.
Step 3: Gather new information. A quick search of social media, such as YouTube, can give students a starting point for research based on the most current issues.
Step 4: Organize and finish research. After finding great information, the difficult part is keeping it in order. Citelighter helps students think critically about the project, structure their writing and keep track of citations.
Step 5: Share what is learned. Presentations are made simple through Haiku Deck, which is designed to easily create a visualization of ideas.
Step 6: Reflect and apply. Taking time for introspection allows students to really understand what they have learned. Writing a journal entry on a site like Blogger provides a student time to assess their progress.
To prepare today’s students for success in a knowledge-based economy, they must know how to ask questions and be determined to find answers. Although teachers can’t infuse students with desire to do this, you can give them the knowledge and skills to ignite a curiosity to learn more.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written by Katie Lepi] and ran on September 30, 2013. A lot has changed since then, so we’ve had author Pamela DeLoatch update this piece with the latest techniques and innovations.