Inquiry-based instruction is a student-centered and teacher-guided
instructional approach that engages students in investigating
real world questions that they choose within a broad thematic
framework. Inquiry-Based instruction complements traditional
instruction by providing a vehicle for extending and applying
the learning of students in a way that connects with their
interests within a broader thematic framework. Students acquire
and analyze information, develop and support propositions,
provide solutions, and design technology and arts products
that demonstrate their thinking and make their learning visible.
shows that the amount of student learning that occurs in a
classroom is directly proportional to the quality and quantity
of student involvement in the educational program (Cooper
and Prescott 1989). Yet research studies indicate that teachers
typically dominate classroom conversation, consuming nearly
70% of classroom time. Inquiry-based instructional approaches
reverse this trend, placing students at the helm of the learning
process and teachers in the role of learning facilitator,
coach, and modeler.
The Benefits of Inquiry-Based Instruction
(Back to top)
problem-solving, critical thinking skills, and disciplinary
promotes the transfer of concepts to new problem questions
teaches students how to learn and builds self-directed learning
develops student ownership of their inquiry and enhances
student interest in the subject matter
for a successful inquiry(Back
(borrowed from Jeffrey Wilhelm, author of "You
Gotta Be The Book" and "Hyperlearning")
1. Start with a guided
exploration of a topic as a whole class.
Proceed to student small group inquiry about an open-ended,
debatable, contended issue.
Encourage students to ask personally relevant and socially
Work in groups to achieve diversity of views.
Predict, set goals, define outcomes.
Find or create information...look for patterns.
Instruction serves as a guide to help students meet their
Create a tangible artifact that addresses the issue, answers
questions, and makes learning visible and accountable.
Learning is actualized and accountable in the design accomplishment.
Arrive at a conclusion...take a stand...take action.
Document, justify, and share conclusion with larger audience.
Components of the Inquiry Process(Back
(elements adapted from Jeffrey Wilhelm's work
on inquiry-based instruction)
Activating Prior Knowledge
- Engaging students in a conversation about what they
By bringing the students' own background and experiences
to the learning table, students will find ways to connect
to the topic and will have activated some basis for creating
meaning with the text they are reading. The personal connection
to learning increases a student's motivation to explore,
read, and struggle with difficulties as they arise.
Providing Background Information
primary source material
Students need to know something about the topic
to be able to perceive and formulate meaningful inquiries.
Defining Outcomes for which students will be held accountable.
conduct research on the web; create PowerPoint presentations
or web sites; communicate using e-mail; import photos
and clip art for presentations; use digital camera,
digital audio recorder, and video recorder.
identify main idea and authors point of view; identify
key concepts; increase understanding of vocabulary;
extract meaning between the lines (infer)
define problem question; find and gather data; analyze,
compare, organize, and synthesize data; create a proposition;
support proposition (facts, stats, examples, expert
authority, logic and reasoning); propose solutions and
listen, consider others' ideas, encourage, provide coaching,
affirm, question, cooperate, demonstrate individual
responsibility, avoid put-downs, engage in dialogue
Management: set goals, agree on tasks and roles, meet
deadlines, prioritize tasks
Students need to know up front exactly what's
expected of them.
Modeling Design Product Outcomes (technology, art); Providing
students a PowerPoint presentation, a web site, a proposition-support
framework, a museum exhibit, a choreographed dance performance,
need to see models of what it is they are being asked
to do. They must have a supporting structure which provides
a grounding for their creations, but doesn't
limit their creativity.
Establishing a general topic or inquiry
What happens when the structure around people breaks down?
(unit on the great depression)
How are human beings adversely impacting our planet?
(exploring environmental issues which impact the Amazon
broad problem question or topic provides students with
a general focus for selecting more specific inquiries.
Student teams conduct background research and define focused
problem questions within broader inquiry or topic
a knowledge base or some degree of familiarity with the
topic, it will be difficult for students to develop relevant
inquiries within the broad topic area. Students need to
be provided with background material and/or guided to
research their own background material. This base will
enable them to begin to formulate a big picture understanding
of the broad topic area, and then to select a specific
inquiry interest which connects to the broader topic.
Establish and communicate inquiry presentation framework.
state problem question
b) develop proposition which can be argued
c) provide background information
d) support proposition with:
propose solutions and action ideas
logic and reasoning
students back to expected outcomes and inquiry framework
to create alignment between their presentations and intended
students a lot of questions to help them refine their
thinking and guide their research.
Support technology (PowerPoint, Web Site, Hyperstudio)
and art design product creation.
Empower students to coach and train one another
within their teams.
a forum for student presentations which includes
students, teachers, parents, and community members.
vehicles for student participation in action projects
which connect their learning to specific action.
ongoing, meaningful peer and teacher assessment.
Reflect on what worked and what didn't, and try it
for Problem Question Selection(Back
1. Is it personally relevant and socially
significant? Is the student truly interested in the question?
Is it researchable?
Is it big enough and small enough?
#1: Read theory and rational behind inquiry-based instruction.
Reflect on your own learning experiences. Write a journal
reflection on your learning experiences and how they are different
from or similar to an inquiry-based approach to learning.
Instruction: Exploring the components of the inquiry-based
learning process.(Back to top)
Accessing Prior Student Knowledge
#2: Complete the following opinionaire on the Amazon. This
opinionaire is an example of a technique for accessing prior
Name: Survivor: The Amazon Challenge
Pretend you are lost in the deep recesses of the Amazon rainforest.
The only way out is to convince locals that you know what
youre talking about when it comes to the Amazon. Fortunately
for you, they are a forgiving group, and are willing to help
you along the way. But first, you and your team are on your
own to answer these questions. Good
The Amazon Challenge
your team, answer the following questions to the best of your
ability. For those questions you answer that are not correct,
you will have a second opportunity to answer correctly by
using the Amazon Student Research link at www.ctcexpeditions.org.
For indigenous cultures that are on the endangered cultures
list, what is the maximum number of living members they must
have to be placed on the list?
How many species of fish have been found in the Amazon basin?
Match the following medicinal plants with their characteristics:
Amazon Cats Claw 1. Fights AIDS and cancer
Valerium 2. Balances blood sugar; helps diabetics
Guarana Shrub 3. Helps with sleep disorders
Pata de Vaca 4. 5 times more caffeine than coffee
The Amazon basin holds ________ per cent of the worlds
fresh water (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30), and the Amazon River
pours 55 million gallons of water per ________ (second, minute,
hour, day) into the ________ (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian) Ocean.
The Amazon is home to the only species of freshwater sharks.
Of all the animals that local Amazon River dwellers talk about
the most in terms of fearing physical injury, this Amazon
River species tops the list. What is it?
The original Amazon rainforest has been cut back by ________
(4-7; 7-10; 11-14; 13-16; 18-21; 25-30) per cent. The current
rate of deforestation in the Amazon is roughly 13,000 acres
per day or ________ (5, 8, 11, 14, 20, 26, 33) football fields
What role does the tambaqui fish play in regenerating the
Which Brazilian city in the heart of the Amazon was once the
richest city in the world, and how did it achieve that status?
Name that Amazon animal: It is slow as molasses, swims in
the water, and eats like a monkey.
find answers to the questions you couldnt answer, click
#3: Complete the following KWL grid. What do you know about
the Amazon? What do you want to know? What have you learned?
(Back to top)
this chart during your study of the Amazon. First write what
you know about the Amazon. Then write what you would like
to know about the Amazon. At the end of your study write the
most important things you learned.
What I know What I want to know What Ive learned
#2 Building Background Knowledge
#4: Click on the link below to access the On-Line Expeditions
Amazon 2003 web site. Go to: Amazon Student Research and do
a general exploratory review of listed web site links under
the different curricular themes. Begin thinking about a particular
inquiry or question you would like to explore. Again go to:
#5: Select one additional resource to build background knowledge.
Review the material you select and consider an inquiry or
question you would like to explore.
to: Amazon Curriculum Starter Kit (Back
#3 Developing Your Inquiry
#6: Develop a question that you would like to pursue within
a particular discipline that relates to the broad theme of
the Amazon. Consider the following criteria for developing
your question: (Back
Is it personally relevant to you and socially significant?
Are you truly interested in the question?
Is it researchable?
Is it big enough to find information and small enough to be
Is it an issue that can be argued for or against?
Is deforestation in the Amazon something we in Chicago should
be concerned about? Why or why not?
Is organic food more nutritious than conventionally-raised
Are the daily administrative, student, and teacher behaviors
at my school helping to conserve or degrade our natural environment?