Planning for Inquiry
It might seem like planning for inquiry-based learning would be easy. Simply ask students to "do it." Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Do your students know how to formulate meaningful questions? Are they able to evaluate the quality of information they see on television or read off the Internet? Can they synthesize the information they find? Do they know how to use the presentation tool you're asking them to apply? Effectively completing the information inquiry process requires a staggering amount of knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
Explore Student Inquiry in the Research Process by L.B. Preddy from Perry Meridian Middle School, Indianapolis, IN. This website was designed to help guide fellow educators develop collaborative lesson plans for student inquirers. The instructors guide has suggestions for teachers and media specialists as they work together on planning and implementation. Within the website are some great resources and examples!
Student Inquiry: Orientation
Student Inquiry: Exploration
Student Inquiry: Strategy
Student Inquiry: Investigation
Student Inquiry: Conclusion & Reflection
Information Fluency and Planning
Achieving information fluency takes time. You can't possibly address everything students need to know within a single project. That's the purpose of integrating information inquiry competencies throughout the scope and sequence of the entire PK-16 curriculum. Although the process will remain the same, the depth and breath of the investigations will vary. For example, kindergartners can trace the origins of the milk on their lunch plate back to a daily cow using pictures and key words like store, truck, and farm. While a high school student might question the use of pesticide in the grain eaten by dairy cows.
Each classroom situation provides an opportunity to introduce new skills and build on existing knowledge. For example, in some situations it makes sense to have students use search engines to locate information to address questions. In others, it might be a more efficient use of time to provide three quality websites and ask students to concentrate their efforts on comparing the three different perspectives. Your choice of approach will depend on the entry skills of your students as well as the specific standard you wish to address in the inquiry. For example, it makes sense for students to use search engines themselves if one of the outcomes relates to helping students narrow or broaden their topic.
Carol Kuhlthau (1994) identified three elements as necessary in a research assignment.
- The Question. The question raised cannot be thoroughly investigated and resolved within the confines of the curriculum materials.
- The Materials. There must be materials available to address the question including a range of resource in the library.
- The Presentation. The findings of the research must be presented in some way through a print, visual, and/or auditory format.
According to Danny Callison, there are four levels of inquiry: controlled, guided, modeled, and free inquiry. Different situations and degrees of student experience may dictate different approaches. For example, a controlled inquiry may be used to meet particular learning outcomes such as identifying cause/effect or differentiating fact from opinion. A free inquiry might be used for a senior project in a global awareness course.
Read Part II: Application of Inquiry to the Student Research Process including Chapters 13-17 in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy, 225-273.
Read How to Develop an Inquiry-based Project from YouthLearn.