What is Inquiry-based Learning?
Inquiry-based learning is an approach in which students have ownership of their learning. It starts with exploration and questioning and leads to investigation into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It involves asking questions, gathering and analysing information, generating solutions, making decisions, justifying conclusions and taking action. The inquiry learning may be guided or independent, dependent on the level of student skills for conducting an inquiry. An opportunity is provided for student's to share their work. The inquiry-based approach to learning is based on the belief that students are powerful learners who are actively engaged in the process of investigating, processing, organising, and extending their knowledge within a topic.
At Long Bay Primary we support this move away from the view that knowledge is something that is taught, to the view that knowledge is learned. Inquiry-based learning works through a sequence of activities and experiences that starts with the student's prior knowledge and experience and moves through a deliberate process wherein that knowledge is extended, challenged and refined.
The Six Stages of Inquiry-based Learning
The purpose of the first stage is to engage students in the topic, to gauge interest and attitudes and to find out their current understanding and possible misconceptions. Possible activities could be posing questions, developing hypothesis and making predictions, planning research or play simulation games.
The purpose of the second stage is to take the students beyond what they already know, and to challenge students' ideas, beliefs and values. It also involves enables the students to use their skills (e.g. thinking, communication, cooperation, research skills) and knowledge to collect new information. This phase could involve excursions, guest speakers, experiments, and information gathering via surveys, films, books and websites.
The third stage consists of the sorting out, organising and presenting of information from the previous stage, by creating graphs, building models or, role play for example.
The purpose of the fourth stage is to extend or broaden the unit if appropriate, by allowing students to investigate areas of personal interest using their preferred learning style, or by presenting another perspective on or dimension to the topic. This can be achieved by revisiting earlier questions, starting individual or small group mini-research projects, setting up exhibitions or community projects.
The fifth stage of inquiry-based learning provides opportunities for the students to think about their learning - how they learnt, what they learnt and why they learnt. It also gives the opportunity to identify changes in skills, knowledge and values and the ability to draw conclusions and make connections between new ideas. Possible tools to use are writing generalisation, visual and written journals and self-, peer- and group assessment.
The purpose of the final stage is to identify what the students have learnt and to relate their learning to real life situations. An example of activities related to this stage could be the publishing of findings through newsletters or posters, organising a public performance or contacting relevant organisations for continued learning.