Being told is the opposite of finding out. James Britton
Inquiry is a flexible approach to learning that is driven by the natural curiosity of students to question, explore and make sense of their world. Talk is an essential component of this process. In fact, the four competencies in the Quebec English Language Arts Program are so inextricably intertwined that reading, writing/producing, thinking and talk are all enriched when students are engaged in inquiry.
With inquiry all students are engaged in interesting, authentic learning experiences where they can build on prior knowledge and understandings.
The process is dynamic, reflective and recursive. As students work through the process, they:
Inquiry allows us to provide open-ended experiences and investigations that enable students to enter at their own readiness levels. It is a flexible approach that ranges from the creation of a classroom Wonder Centre to problem-based projects, to action research and ethnography. There are many inquiry models that can be used or adapted by the teacher. Although the teacher’s role is different from more traditional models, the teacher plans and guides the learning, providing support as needed.
If we reframe what we are already doing in our classroom around a guiding or essential question, we are moving into inquiry. The essential question generates a real purpose for learning and fuels purposeful talk.
Essential Question Criteria
An effective essential or guiding question:
Adapted from Wilhelm (44)
Types of Essential Questions
Essential questions are often stated in one of the following ways.
Once you have an essential question you can ask yourself the following questions to determine the next steps.
It is possible to reword essential questions to suit the age of the students.
There are so many possiblitlies for creating classroom inquiries. The following resources can help you find out more about inquiry as well as provide additional classroom examples.