George Lucas Educational Foundation

Inquiry Based Learning

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I'm curious to know how many of you use inquriy based learning as a regular teaching technique in your classrooms. If you do, what types of activities does your class participate in?

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Katherine Judd's picture
Katherine Judd
College writing and communications teacher

I know service-learning and primary-research based projects but not inquiry-based learning? Sounds intriguing! More information, please?

KellyAnn Bonnell's picture
KellyAnn Bonnell
STEAM Integration Manager

I just posted a similar question in the project based learning group because PBL and integrated studies are both components of Emergent Curriculum and I'm looking for teachers who use it in upper grades. Here is the first part of a series we are doing on Emergent curriculum at Pop Goes the Classroom. Here are parts 1 and 2

Ms. C's picture
Ms. C
Middle School Teacher, Lead Teacher, Dept. Chair, Support Provider

I have attempted to use inquiry based learning in my U.S. History class to emphasize that social science is the gathering of information, analysis, and creation of conclusions through the collaboration of archeologists, historians, scientists, and other experts. Depending on the student's inquiry skills or the topic to be studied, I have used a very structured version (providing a specific question to investigate), a guided version (providing a topic or theme and helping my student create questions they would like to know the answer for), or allowed students to choose a topic of interest and to create a question for their investigation (usually as end of the year projects or for GATE students).

As an example, to start the school year I created an investigation titled "Investigation of a Massacre". This investigation helped students learn about gathering evidence through primary and secondary sources, selecting relevant information (analysis), formulating conclusions about historical events, and about how conclusions change when new information is discovered. We focused on primary sources and secondary sources related to the Boston Massacre. I provided copies of Paul Revere's painting of the event, news articles reporting the event, journal entries, and testimony from the actual court case defending the soldiers involved. I created graphic organizers that they used daily for collection of data and to record their analysis. They worked in groups to determine which information was relevant to the investigation and which information wasn't, they analyzed which evidence coincided versus information that didn't, and they came up with their theories as to what actually happened at the "Boston Massacre" at different points in the investigation. Once they had analyzed all the evidence I provided, they presented their final conclusions and supporting evidence through a persuasive essay written in the style of a lawyer's closing argument. I truly feel the students were engaged and the instructional goals were achieved through this hands-on, investigative, critical thinking unit. As the culminating activity, we read the final arguments and judgement from the actual Boston Massacre court case and watched the clip from the John Adams mini-series.

I hope my example is not tedious. In short, create a question that will guide your students to reach the objective of the lesson, and create activities (labs) which will allow students to reach the answer(s).

Devon Kirk's picture
Devon Kirk
Primary Teacher

That is a HUGE question. I use inquiry everyday and it looks different depending on what it is that I want the children to get out of it. It could be structured or guided. It could be open or free. Again, it totally depends on what it is that I want the students to get out of it. There are a ton of resources that you could check out.

To start I recommend:

IB Clever
(The IB-PYP is an inquiry based curriculum. See also IBO.)

Kath Murdoch:

I totally recommend her book:
Learning for themselves: pathways to independence in the classroom

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