Inquiry is described as “a way of thinking” not separate from “your normal everyday way of doing what you do.” Similarly, researchers have learned from educators that “inquiry is not a ‘project’, an ‘initiative’ or an ‘innovation’ but a professional way of being” (Timperley, Kaser, & Halbert, 2014).
There is no one way teach and learn from inquiry, however, we identify three components as essential to student learning: relevant, collaborative, and reflective.
INQUIRY IS RELEVANT
Students need opportunities to use the tools around them to assist in making teachable moments meaningful and relevant. The following are some of tech tools we use to enrich our learning in the classroom.
- video communications
- audio and visual podcasts
- online research journals
- digital images
- online questionnaires
These opportunities radically change and improve the way we educate students and self-direct learning.
INQUIRY CAN BE COLLABORATIVE
As educators we must learn to share the process of learning in order to engage students. Inquiry is a shared process. The following actions are part of the learner experience and how we can encourage students to take charge of their learning.
- Observe student learning and experience.
- Capture and analyze student learning and experience through pedagogical documentation.
- Engage in responsive interactions with learners.
- Integrate student experiences and knowledge within practice.
- Engage students within the inquiry through assessment for and as learning (Capacity Building Series, 2012).
As a result, collaborative inquiry helps us understand how to make our instruction more meaningful.
INQUIRY IS REFLECTIVE
In an article by Rusche and Jason, “You Have to Absorb Yourself in It”: Using Inquiry and Reflection to Promote Student Learning and Self-knowledge, we are told about a group of students who read a literature assignment, shut the book, and “five minutes later forget everything” they had read. When Sarah Rusche opened with this scenario to an audience of similar age groups, she explains that many students enthusiastically raised their hands in agreement. In a short period of time, is it possible to have recall concerns that can counter learning?
This familiar situation is key in understanding the purpose of reflection, to provide opportunities for students to write after they read. In this way students will minimize loss of information over time.
“…reflection writing will help with that problem because reflection insists that they process what they just read, not through summarization but through application. This improves not only their memory of the reading but also their understanding.” (Rusche and Jason. American Sociological Association on October 17, 2011)
The goal of reflection and shared reflection exercises is to take a hard look at the learning process and promote critical thinking skills. It is the belief that the following three components are essential to student learning, discovery, creation and retention of new ideas.