An Inquiry Based Learning Approach

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Inquiry based learning is old concept of learning. This form of learning is an educational concept that relies more on a learners side of involvement than a teachers intervention. This approach is quite different from a traditional mode of learning. In a conventional classroom, teachers use a system where they come to the class with a set of pre-prepared course curriculum and deliver them to the students on a sequential mode. In fact, they are the active facilitators of teaching by providing a source of skills and knowledge to the students. The entire teaching process is teacher-driven, when the teacher manages and administers the entire proceedings.

On the other hand, an inquiry based learning system drives the students to learn in a productive manner. Here, the teacher or instructors act as mentors or guides to lead students to learn their lessons. The teacher in charge will allow the students to come with their own queries and questions that eventually help them learn with a motivated mind. A most inquiry-based course curriculum differentially structured and students learn at their own pace and effort.

Children are curious and motivated to know and learn anything that interests them. Their intense desire to learn new things will lead them to design, create, master and experiment with different things and issues. In an inquiry based learning system, there are two important entities. A child will have his or her interests and motivation to drive the learning process. On the contrary, both parents and teachers just act as facilitators or mentors in the entire learning process. An inquiry based learning process is evolving and organic apart from its dynamic and interactive nature. It means that a child who uses this approach is very active when he or she gets an active interest in learning.

An inquiry based learning process involves the following important factors:

New discovery � Something interests and intrigues children that eventually force them to know more about it. This intriguing thing can fuel a child�s imagination and drive to learn more. This very precious response system works very well for any child. A sense or drive to explore new domains or things will help a child to try his or her maximum best to master the basics of lessons.

A sense of action to drive the learning process � Although children are busy learning their lessons, teachers keep observing and mentoring their activities. They will also provide many opportunities to children to ask their questions and seek clarifications. During the process of learning, children start collecting information and details regarding the lessons. In this way, children will interact with other children to learn on a mutual basis. Team learning is an excellent way to learn new things and lessons.

Results or outcome � At the end of the learning process, the children will assess their performance with the active help from their teachers. This step is a reflection period when children compare their performance and later assess what can be done to improve their performance. The teacher who is in charge will help them in the process. Once children feel confident, they can probe and test new areas, domains and territories. The outcome is academic excellence, cooperation and teamwork.

For example,

Let us assume that few children ask their children how different musicians perform on a stage instead of performing on the floor. The teacher in charge may motivate the children to find the answers for their questions. Mutual discussions among children and a round of discussion will help everyone to design an imaginary stage where different musicians play different musical instruments. In another extension, children can even take the role of individual musicians and start playing their own imaginary instruments.

With an inquiry-based learning, your children can easily learn many things and master many skills like:

Self-belief � Children start believing in themselves in their skills and abilities. They also perceive themselves as skilled, knowledgeable, competent, capable and highly valued.

Motivation � Children develop higher levels of motivation to learn on their own. In fact, this acts as a fuel to burn goal-driven objectives.

Mind to investigate and probe � Children who use an inquiry based learning process will develop self-confidence that drives them forward to achieve many great things in life.

Cooperation � Children who use an inquiry based learning approach help others and get help from others too.

Self-expression � Children who use this approach will also master the art of self-expression. They will develop the strength and capability to provide answers to any type of questions.

Parental Techniques to Teach the Inquiry Based Learning

Inquires, questions, queries and answers form the backbone of inquiry-based learning. The main goal of this approach is to raise curiosity levels in children so that they can find answers to any questions with their own efforts. With an inquiry-based approach, children can easily imagine things and scenarios that eventually provide answers to any types of questions. However, teachers and parents should learn the art of asking the right type of questions before trying to teach the basics of inquiry based learning. The basic of inquiry is very simple � �Questions are the answers.�It means that both parents and teachers should pose questions that are open-ended and lead to more answers. The basic art of asking questions is a tricky thing. The questions that you ask should not confuse or mislead children; rather, they should open up their mind to ask more questions.

Here are some simple tips and techniques to introduce inquiry based learning in your children:

Note: A question can be either very bad or very good! Just remember that questions can either make a child answer it or force him or her not to answer it. A question can easily open up several conversations only when you ask it in a proper manner. Some pre-conceived ideas or prejudices can easily influence the kind of answers you get from your children.

Here are some simple examples:

Let us assume this scenario. Let us think that you are teaching your children how to write a poem on sunrise. Now, consider how children could respond to your questions. Here are some questions that you can ask your children:

�Nobody has ever written a poem on sunrise, did they?�

�Has anyone written a poem on sunrise?�

�What do you know about writing a poem on sunrise?�

�How does a poem on sunrise feel like?�

Outcome: Do you feel that children will open up and provide answers to all these questions? Just consider the merit of the questions given above. The first question is completely negative and you can ensure a negative or no reply from your children. The second one is somewhat positive. However, your children are still confused about its merit. You can get a positive answer, negative one, or even a no answer for that question. On the other hand, the third one is sure to generate some positive answers. Your children may give a range of answers to your question that may range from simple answers to complex ones. The last question is an open-ended question that forces all children to provide a series of answers. In fact, that question will provide many inputs to your children so that they can think over it before providing an answer. The question that you ask should have its own merits and it should invite validation of certain set of prior skills and knowledge.

Practice your questions in an appropriate manner. You may need to structure your questions in a manner that elicit answers from children. The questions should connect to your children�s IQ and intellect. Never ever, ask questions those are above their intelligence. Limit your questions to suit their intelligence and skill levels. Now, what types of questions would lead to a properly structured inquiry-based learning session? Good questions are always open-ended and they give you definite answers. Here are some questions that will help create a good inquiry-based learning schedule:

Answerable questions: The questions that you ask should be answerable by your children. �What is the poem The Sun Rises in the East based on?� is quite answerable. On the contrary, �Why did Tom write it?� is not an open-ended question. In fact, you are shutting your children�s mouth because they do not how to answer it. Your children will not have any answers in their mind. Consider another example. Let us consider the same poem. If you ask, why Tom chose that topic to write a poem, your children will not be able to answer because that person is no more and only he knows why he chose that topic.

The answer should not relate to simple facts: If you ask your children, �in what year our country became independent?� then you are asking something that almost everyone knows. That information is available in almost all books. Instead, you can ask, �how did your country get its independence?� then your children will have something to think over before answering that question. In essence, your children should be able to conduct a small research in their mind before answering the question.

Your children should not know about the answer: You may need to ask some questions for which your children do not possess a ready-made answer. Ask those questions that cajole your children to conduct a mental analysis.

The questions should be objective and reasonable: If you ask question that is not reasonable then your children may not answer it properly. Let us consider this example. �Why milk is white?� could be answered with a small round of research. On the contrary, �Why the cow made its milk white?� is not objective enough for a valid answer. Both of these questions look very valid and fit enough to get an answer. However, the second one is difficult to answer because of its nature. The second question may look all right, but your children cannot provide a valid answer because it is hypothetical and not appropriate for an inquiry-based learning process.

In essence, as the name suggests, an inquiry-based learning system works on curiosity and inquisitiveness. As your children, develop an ability to find answer to questions of different nature, their intellect and IQ starts improving gradually and in an assured manner.

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