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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Explain the inquiry process;

Inquiry Learning

By the end of this topic, you should be able to: State the main difference between discovery and inquiry; Describe the advantages of inquiry learning; Discuss the conditions needed for inquiry learning Explain the types of questions needed for inquiry learning; and Construct questions that are relevant to inquiry learning.



Teacher Areena started the lesson by telling a story about two best friends going to the sea using the `Wayang kulit prop. She asked her students to discuss about the story and what they can learn from the story.



Later she asked her students: Teacher : How did the shadow form? Aiman : It is because of the light behind the puppet. Teacher : Yes, Aiman! Do all kinds of objects form shadows if a light is shone on them? Kumari : I dont think so. Only opaque objects form shadows. Teacher : Good! Then she asked them to draw a diagram to explain how the shadow is formed. Teacher : What if I want to make the shadow bigger? What should I do? Aina : I know! I will show you. Teacher Areena gave a puppet and a torchlight to Aina to demonstrate it to the class. Teacher : Yes! You can move the torchlight closer to the puppet. She then asks her students to discuss other ways of changing the size of the shadow formed on the screen. How would her class look like? Can you imagine a class where the children actively pose questions, seek answers to questions, demonstrate a strong interest in outcomes, and discuss their theories and ideas with others? If you do, then you do have some understanding of inquiry learning. Her approach involves her students learning science using the inquiry approach. In this topic, we will be discussing the concept of inquiry teaching and learning; the steps involved; its advantages; the environment; and the types of questions asked in the process.

Recall your own classroom. Does it resemble Areenas class? How does it differ?





The word inquiry has many interpretations. It ranges from a simple question, such as "How many different kinds of fish are in the aquarium?", or as complex as understanding the nature of science itself (Pratt and Hackett, 2000). If you look up the Webster dictionary, to inquire is to ask about something; to search into it, especially by asking questions; and to investigate something. This is the heart of inquiry learning. Children play the role of active learner; when challenged with a problem, they will determine how to find the solution to the problem through investigation. Martin, et. al (1994), quoting Birnie & Ryan, said that those who inquire exert an effort to discover something to the inquirer though not necessarily new to the world. Children will be able to inquire when they are given the following: (a) (b) (c) (d) Hands-on activities; Materials to manipulate; Enough structure to help them focus or maintain a productive direction; and Enough freedom to make a personal learning discovery.

They further explain that if a child is able to acquire a new fact, concept, principle, or solution through the inquiry process, the student is making a discovery. In simple terms, inquiry is a means to an end the discovery. What the student acquires is not only content knowledge, but skills on how to approach a problem, identify important resources, both design and carry out hands-on investigations, analyse and interpret data, and perhaps most importantly, recognise when they have answered the question or solved the problem. The goal of inquiry is to help them gain a better understanding of the world around them through active engagement with real-life experiences.

1. 2. State in your own words what inquiry learning is. What is the main difference between discovery and inquiry? Discuss with your coursemates.




Inquiry Cycle

To conduct inquiry learning, we will explore using the Inquiry Cycle. Different people describe inquiry cycle differently. The simplest is based on Deweys philosophy. The spiral path of inquiry is shown in Figure 5.1.

Figure 5.1: Deweys inquiry cycle Source: http://www.cii.illinois.edu/InquiryPage/

Based on Deweys inquiry cycle, you begin the class by asking your students questions based on a problem presented. Besides that, you can also encourage your students to state the question that need to be investigated. When the question is clear, students can then plan different ways to find the answer to the question. After that, the students will do investigations to test their ideas or solution to the problem. When data have been collected, they will analyse and interpret the data, thereby creating new knowledge. Later, they will discuss their finding about new discoveries and experiences, and finally reflect on their newfound knowledge. Another inquiry cycle worth discussing is from Warner and Myers, as shown in Figure 5.2. Comprising six stages, their model is more comprehensive than Deweys: (a) (b) (c) Inquisition stating a "what if" or "I wonder" question to be investigated; Acquisition brainstorming possible procedures; Supposition identifying an "I think" statement to test;


(d) (e) (f)

Implementation designing and carrying out a plan; Summation collecting evidence and drawing conclusions; and Exhibition sharing and communicating results.

Figure 5.2: Warner and Myers Inquiry Cycle Source: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc076

Does the Warner and Myers' cycle sound familiar? Yes, their model corresponds to the description of the scientific method described in Topic 1. That is why inquiry learning is very suitable in the science classroom. The process of inquiry not only enhances students' understanding of natural phenomena, but also develops their science processing skills. Composed of the same basic components, both the scientific method and the inquiry process require students to conduct research investigations by formulating a question, developing a hypothesis, conducting an experiment, recording data, analysing data and drawing conclusions.


Teachers play a vital role in adapting the inquiry process to the knowledge and ability level of their students. When using inquiry-based lessons, teachers are responsible for: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) Starting the inquiry process; Promoting dialogue among students; Ensuring the smooth transition from small groups to classroom discussions; Intervening to clear misconceptions or developing students understanding of content material; Modelling scientific procedures and attitudes; and Utilising students experiences to create new content knowledge.

Based on the objectives of the lesson and the abilities of the students, teachers must decide how much guidance they will provide. Regardless of the amount of assistance that teachers provide, the fundamental goal of inquiry is for the students to be engaged during the learning process.

Robert Suchmann also suggested a strategy that can be used to teach using the inquiry approach. 1. 2. Collect information about his strategy. Compare his strategy to Warner and Myers cycle. Discuss your findings with your tutor and coursemates.

1. State whether the following statement about inquiry learning is true or false. (a) (b) Inquiry learning is an example of a student-centred approach. The teacher plays an important role in inquiry learning.



Inquiry is the process of defining and investigating problems, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, gathering data and drawing conclusions about problems. The teachers roles are to ask open-ended and high level questions, solicit and accept divergent responses and probe and redirect questions. Do not allow your children to make their own correction as far as possible. Let the children make their own conclusions.


(e) (f) 2.

The following table lists the characteristics of inquiry and traditional learning. Fill in the blanks.
Inquiry Aspect Traditional Behaviourism Passive


Principle learning theory Student participation Student involvement in outcomes Student role Teacher role

Increased responsibility Problem solver



Advantages of Inquiry Learning

In a traditional science classroom, the teacher will first explain science concepts to students. If the student are involved in doing the investigations, the investigation will be planned by the teacher. In inquiry learning however, students are allowed to learn and experience science firsthand, by taking on the roles of scientists. This benefits students in many ways. According to the Institute for Inquiry (2005), students who do inquiry-based science will have the following characteristics: (a) (b) View themselves as scientists in the process of learning; Accept an invitation to learn and readily engage in the exploration process;


(c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h)

Plan and carry out investigations; Communicate using a variety of methods; Propose explanations and solutions and build a store of concepts; Raise questions; Use observations; and Critique their science practices.

Thus, opportunities to think and behave as scientists provide relevancy and credibility to students understanding of science. They learn that it is appropriate to ask questions and seek answers. In addition, students learn the challenges and pitfalls of investigations. Inquiry-based learning has other advantages as well: (a) The approach is flexible so you can use it in different ways. It could be a simple and short project that can be done in a lesson, or a more comprehensive type that lasts a week or a month. The complex project could be an interdisciplinary project that reinforces multiple skills or knowledge areas (you will learn this type of project in Topic 7). The inquiry could involve students just researching the answers from various resources, or students to research and then test their ideas in the laboratory. In doing the projects, they will develop competencies in problem solving as well as in critical and creative thinking. It could benefit those students that have different learning styles. Some students do not like just sitting down and listening to you. They like to do things, and find out the answers for themselves rather than being told. This is especially true for gifted students. They learn rapidly compared to their peers and would not be patient to wait for the others to catch up with them. So you could be giving this student a project to be carried out on their own while you concentrate on the other students who need more of your attention. It is an approach that is very suitable if you are thinking of using cooperative and collaborative learning. You could assign different problems to different groups; different groups working on the same question; or on different aspects of the same question. They are not just finding solutions to the problem but they are developing their social and emotional skills as well. Of course you cannot expect the skills to happen automatically when they are working in a team. You need to plan purposely the skills that you want to incorporate into the lesson.





An inquiry-based approach can work with any age group. Even though older children will be able to pursue much more sophisticated questioning and research projects, build a spirit of inquiry into activities wherever you can, even with the youngest, in an age-appropriate manner. It also teaches students to develop self-directed learning skills when they are assigned individual tasks. For some students, they may need more guidance initially; but as they gain skills and confidence, they can do the inquiry on their own. These skills are important as they can apply them in their daily lives. It develops students ownership of their inquiry and enhances their interest in science. When they find the answer to a problem on their own, they would feel very proud. This then strengthens their confidence and will act as an intrinsic motivation for them to learn.



Based on the points given earlier, create a mind map to summarise the advantages of inquiry learning.

What do you think are the challenges faced by teachers in conducting inquiry learning? Discuss with your tutor and coursemates.



Alan Colburn, in "An Inquiry Primer," defines inquiry as "the creation of a classroom where pupils are engaged in essentially open-ended, pupil-centred, hands-on activities." However, there are other types of inquiry learning, that are structured and guided besides being open-ended as mentioned by Colburn. They are classified based upon the role of the teacher and students in the inquiry process. The types of inquiry learning can be represented in a continuum as shown in Figure 5.3. It ranges from teacher-led to student-led processes. The teacher plays a dominant role in the structured type but only facilitates learning in the other continuum, known as the open type. Students play an active role in open-type inquiry as


they will determine the problem and the way to solve it; whereas, they usually wait for the teacher to determine what they will learn in a structured type of inquiry. Meanwhile, in guided inquiry, the situation is a compromise between open and structured inquiry.

Figure 5.3: Types of inquiry continuum

There is debate as to which type of inquiry is best. The general consensus is that any form of inquiry (structured, guided or open) can be useful to children when taught appropriately and well. Now let us discuss each type of inquiry on the continuum. (a) Structured inquiry In this strategy, the teacher has prepared questions as well as procedures and materials necessary to complete the inquiry. The teacher leads students step-by-step through the scientific process. Students discover relationships between variables or generalise from the data collected, which in essence leads to the discovery of expected outcomes. Certain topics can only be explored through structured inquiry, particularly those that involve answering standard-based questions using a method which is not intuitive, or which involve the use of specialised instruments. For example: (a) (b) (c) Do plants lose water through their leaves? What does fire need to burn? What is the relationship between inertia and momentum?

These lessons will familiarise students with the inquiry method and allow them to develop scientific processing skills. In other words, structured inquiries provide students with common learning experiences that can be used in guided or open inquiry.



Guided inquiry In this strategy, the teacher poses a question and provides the students only with the materials to be used in their investigation. Guided inquiry requires students to be familiar with the main steps of scientific inquiry as they then need to design the experiment themselves. Examples of questions a teacher might ask include: (a) (b) (c) What happens to a balloon if it moves from a hot to a cold place? What structures must these objects have for them to be stable? How will a change in temperature affect the solubility of a solution?

Another example of guided inquiry could also be getting students to create a model. You provide them with the criteria that you want and the students have to think critically and creatively in order to best fit your criteria. (c) Open inquiry This type of inquiry is the opposite of structured inquiry. It requires the least amount of teacher intervention and is student-led. Students formulate not only their own problem, but also the procedures. Open inquiry is analogous to doing science. For example, the teacher might provide students with the following objects and ask them to formulate questions about the objects: (a) (b) (c) Primary coloured paints and materials they can use to mix together; A variety of objects that may sink or float at a water table; and A bag of marbles with a few marbles of different sizes.

Since students follow their own paths of questioning, it is more difficult to sometime connect it to the topics in the curriculum. In order to ensure learning takes place and you can complete the syllabus at the same time, you would probably need to consider the following guidelines: (a) (b) (c) (d) Provide carefully planned inquiry-based assessments; Create well-established classroom rules for interaction and the handling of materials; Offer guidance to students who show frustration; and Prepare guided questions following the activity that tie into standards.

You should start introducing the inquiry approach to your class by first using the structured inquiry before the guided, and finally when your students are ready you could use the open or free inquiry (Figure 5.4). Just like going up the stairs


step by step, you only proceed to the next step when your students are ready. Teachers and students may need more practice to get comfortable with the learning experience that require less guidance and teacher intervention.

Figure 5.4: Stages of inquiry learning

Construct a graphic organiser to differentiate among structured, guided and open inquiry. Compare yours with your coursemates.

This website below can provide you with many examples of a science lesson using the structured, guided or open inquiry learning: http://www.justsciencenow.com/inquiry/index.htm Choose one and present it in the next tutorial.




Can you now picture the differences between traditional learning and inquiry learning? In inquiry learning , the students will be actively involved doing hands-on activities, asking questions and busily interacting with each other. In order for the lesson to run smoothly, there are conditions that need to be met. Moll (2005) suggests that the keys to a good inquiry-based activity are as follows: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) Hands-on with simple materials; Pairs or small groups; Questioning checkpoints for longer activities; Well-structured handouts with lots of place for students to write their answers; Lots of questions asking students to describe their observations in their own words; Answer questions with questions (point out things that do not make sense, try to identify misconceptions, ask whether each observation fits their theory), try not to tell them anything; Flexible, allowing students to investigate things they are interested in, even if it strays from the worksheets or topic; Lots of time; and Aim to convey scientific concepts (the big picture) and not details.

(g) (h) (i)

Meanwhile, Schuman proposes six rules that teachers need to consider in successful inquiry teaching and learning. The six procedures are as shown in Table 5.1.


Table 5.1: Conditions for Inquiry Teaching Rule Questions Procedure Students must ask questions that are phrased in such a way that they can only be answered by "Yes" or "No". This is to ensure that the teacher is not giving out the answer. A student may ask as many questions as desired once the teacher begins the class. This encourages the student to use his or her previous questions to formulate new ones to pursue a reasonable theory. When students suggest a theory, the teacher should refrain from evaluating it. The teacher might simply record the theory or ask a question about the students theory. Students should be allowed to test their teories at any time. Students should be encouraged to work in groups in order to confer and discuss their theories. The teacher should provide materials, texts and reference books so that the students can explore their ideas.

Freedom to ask questions

Teacher response to statements of theory Testing theories Cooperation Experimenting

Source: Rashid Johar, Lilia Halim, & Kamisah Othman (2004)

Go to this website. Analyse the conditions upon which the lessons are conducted: http://hea-www.harvard.edu/ECT/threads.html Then, discuss with your tutor and coursemates.




As mentioned above, inquiry means asking questions. Thus, if your students do not know how to ask questions, then the inquiry process will not be effective. If you as the teacher do not know how to help your children to develop their questioning skills, then you will have problems in carrying out this approach. Teachers need to have a clear understanding of the kinds of questions that support inquiry learning, and also how to facilitate children's questioning skills. In inquiry teaching, skillful questioning allows the teacher to foster high-level discussions; either with the whole class, in small groups, or with individual children.


Types of Questions

Different types of questions accomplish different tasks and help us to build up our answers in different ways. One way to classify the type of question is based on how open the question is. This can be classified as follows: (a) Convergent questions This type of question requires Yes or No answers. For example, what is the shape of this box? Children do not have to think too long. Convergent questions focus on specific, teacher acceptable answers, and reinforce the correct answers you may be looking for. Use convergent questions to guide the student and to evaluate what he or she sees, knows, or feels about the event. Convergent questions help direct the students attention to specific objects or events. They also sharpen the students recall or memory faculties. These questions evaluate the students observational and recall skills, allow you to adjust your teaching to present ideas again, or go back to less complicated ideas. (b) Divergent questions This is an open-ended type of question (Figure 5.5). These questions encourage a broad range of diverse responses. It allows different answers from your students, invites opinions, thoughts and feelings, and stimulates discussion. All these will encourage student participation in the learning activities. For example, how do you prove your idea? Children need to justify or explain their answers. Pursuing students divergent questions and comments is one of the central elements of inquiry teaching. It not only


engages students in classroom discussions, but also allows them to think independently, creatively and more critically. It also teaches them to take ownership of their own learning, while also feeling a shared responsibility for the learning of the entire class.

Figure 5.5: Divergent questions

Todays technologically advancing society has complex problems which need more than one solution. Therefore, divergent thinking is a particularly important skill. Using divergent questioning will broaden and deepen your students responses and involve them in thinking creatively and critically. Divergent questions stimulate students to become better observers and organisers of the objects and events you present. Many of these questions guide them in discovering things for themselves; help them to see interrelationships; and make hypothesis or draw conclusions from the data. (c) Blooms Taxonomy As a teacher, you should be very familiar with Blooms taxonomy of asking questions (Figure 5.6). The system consists of six levels, which are arranged in hierarchical form, moving from the lowest level of cognition to the highest level of cognition (or from the least complex to the most complex).


Figure 5.6: Blooms Taxonomy Source: http://blogs.pupillife.utoronto.ca/deliberatepractice/

Each of the levels has its purpose and should be used at different stages of the inquiry process. At the beginning of the inquiry process, you should probably use higher level questioning so that the inquiry can be accomplished. When the students are interpreting the data, you should be using knowledge or comprehension questions so that they are more focused. At the end of the inquiry process, you should ask evaluative questions so that they can reflect on their discoveries. Questions should also promote the mental processes involved in inquiry learning. These questions would help students develop their scientific processing skills. Some examples are shown in Table 5.2.


Table 5.2: Examples of Questions to Promote Mental Processes in Inquiry Learning Science processing skills Observing Classifying Inferring Formulating hypothesis Experimenting Examples of questions What are the features of these animals that you can observe? What features do these animals have in common? Why do you think the temperature dropped? What do you think will happen to the solubility of the salt when you heat the solution? How would you determine the factors affecting the period of the pendulum?


Productive and Unproductive Questions In their study, Harlen and Qualter (2004) discussed "productive" and "unproductive" questions. The latter are questions that are asked when you want to know the students understanding of facts or reasons where there is clearly a right answer. Productive questions are useful in helping them to investigate and think. Table 5.3 shows you the productive questions introduced by Elstgeest (1985).
Table 5.3: Elstgeests Types of Productive Questions Type Purpose Drawing childrens attention to features that might otherwise be missed; for example, "Have you noticed?", "What do you think of that?" - are the kinds that children often supply for themselves and the teacher may have to raise them only if observation is superficial and attention fleeting. "In what ways are these leaves different?", "What is the same about these two pieces of rocks?" These questions draw attention to patterns and lay the foundation for using keys and categorising objects and events. "How much?", "How long?" Are particular kinds of comparison questions that take observations into the quantitative sphere. "What happens if you shine the light from a torch on to a worm?", "What happens when you put an ice cube into warm water?", "What happens if ?" Are the kinds of questions that lead to investigation.



Measuring and counting




Give children a challenge and leave them to work out how to meet it. Questions such as "Can you find a way to make your string telephone sound clearer?" and "How can you make a coloured shadow?" require children to have experience or knowledge that they can apply in tackling the problem. Without such knowledge, the question may not even make sense to the children. Source: Harlen and Qualter (2004)

It does not matter what classification of questions you use in conducting the inquiry lesson, each type of question has its own purpose. It should be used at different points of the inquiry lesson , depending on your purpose or depending on the phase of the inquiry cycle.

1. Look at the table below. Identify whether the following questions are convergent or divergent. Then, change the convergent questions into divergent questions.
Questions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. What do you think I am going to do with this material? What conclusions can you make from the data? Can anything else be done to improve the design? Is baking powder a producer of gas? Do you think heat caused the plant to wilt? What can you tell me about pollution in this area from the photograph? Which of these animals would you like to be and why? Would you say you have sufficient information to come to that conclusion? How can you make the bulb light up with the wire, switch and battery? Convergent/Divergent

10. How would you describe the world during the time of the dinosaurs?



Which of these are good questions for an inquiry lesson? Give your reasons. (a) (b) (c) How does a siphon work? Are all big trees of the same size, shape and age? Look at the culture plates. What do you see?


Ways to Facilitate Questioning from Students

If you want your students to continue asking questions, you should give them feedback. They would want to know if their inquiries are acceptable or logical. To respond to their questions effectively, you may find the following guidelines useful: (a) Wait for children to think and formulate responses Researchers have found that you have to wait at least 5 seconds before you rephrase the question. This period, called wait-time, is for the students to think about the answer. Do not interrupt childrens answers Sometimes you interrupt because you think you know what the children are going to say, or they are not giving you the expected answer. You should be patient and listen to their full response before you decide they have understood or not. Show that you are interested in their answers, whether right or wrong You could acknowledge their answers by saying yes, nod your head, use facial expressions that show you are listening and interested in their answers. Develop responses that keep children thinking Do not immediately accept an answer from a student. Ask other students to give their responses, or ask the same student to elaborate further.






If a student gives an incorrect or weak answer, point out its weakness, but ask the student a follow-up question that will lead to the correct or stronger answer For example, note that the students answer overlooks the most important conclusion of the study you are discussing. Then, ask the same student to recall what that conclusion is. If he or she does not recall the conclusion, open this question up to the class. Give feedback in terms of explicit criteria Be clear, specific and personal when giving the feedback. This will help the student to continue with that kind of question or answer if it is good, or if it isn't improve on it. Only give feedback on one aspect of their work at a time This will help them to focus on one aspect, improve on it, and move on to the next. This is easier than trying to improve on so many aspects at the same time.



Using different kinds of questions to facilitate your students questioning, needs practice and planning. You cannot just enter a classroom without knowing what to ask at the beginning, middle and end of the lesson. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Choose a topic from the curiculum. 1. 2. 3. Plan a lesson using the inquiry learning method. Ask a senior colleague to critique your lesson plan. Replan it.


Inquiry is the process of defining and investigating problems, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, gathering data and drawing conclusions about problems. Discovery is the product of the inquiry process. Inquiry is a student-centred approach. Deweys inquiry cycle consists of ask, investigate, create, discuss, and reflect. Marner and Myers' inquiry cycle consists of inquisition, acquisition, supposition, implementation, summation and exhibition. The advantages of inquiry learning are: students can develop critical and creative thinking; scientific skills; and social and intra-personal skills. Students can also become independent learners as inquiry learning could give them the opportunity to develop their self-directed learning skills. This is a useful skill if we want students to adopt life-long learning. The three types of inquiry learning are structured, guided and open inquiry. Structured inquiry is the first stage where most of what is needed for the inquiry process is prepared by the teacher. Guided inquiry is the intermediate phase where, the teacher poses a question and provides the students only with materials to be used in their investigation. In open inquiry, students formulate their own problem to solve and determine the procedures to inquiry. The questioning skills of the teacher as well as the students are central to inquiry learning. Different types of questions should be used at different stages of the inquiry process.


Questions can be categorised as convergent and divergent; as six levels of cognition in Blooms taxonomy; or as productive and non-productive questions. Productive questions will enhance inquiry learning.

Blooms taxonomy Convergent Discovery Divergent Guided inquiry

Inquiry cycle Inquiry learning Open inquiry Productive questions Structured inquiry

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