Inquiry Learning: An Innovative Style of Learning

Today’s educational environment is leaning away from learning facts or particular skills and heading more towards learning to think. The world is simply changing to quickly to keep up with all the facts, plus what is really needed in our world is innovation and creativity.

A new method of learning is being created and developed to help our newest students better develop creativity, innovation and adaptation. This new method is called ‘inquiry learning.” This new style of learning is an integrated approach that includes several basic learning skills: content, literacy, information literacy, learning how to learn, and social or collaborative skills. Students are encouraged to think about the choices they have made through the process and the way they feel as they learn. In this new style of learning these observations are just as important as the content they learn or the projects they complete.

“We want students thinking about their thinking,” said Leslie Maniotes a teacher effectiveness coach in the Denver Public Schools and one of the authors of Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. “We want them reflecting on the process and the content.”

These are five tools used to guide students to this new approach to learning:

  • Create an ‘Inquiry Community’: The classroom is the inquiry community. Each student seems himself as a member of this community, exploring a topic related to the same class subject. Students help each other clarify ideas. “All of this is set within the social context of an inquiry community,” said Maniotes. “We value that community and we’re using all these other tools to inform the level of conversation we might have within that community.”
  • Keep an Inquiry Journal: One of the most important and powerful tools in the inquiry learning process. The journal is where students reflect on the process and the content they discover as they go journey through learning. Students should be encouraged to write down their feeling during the learning process and which ways they feel they learn the best
  • Set up an Inquiry Circle, which is a small group in which students can talk to each other about a more specific topic related to the more general subject matter. Inquiry circles are where students can feel free to talk about any “crazy” ideas they might have about a subject. Students feel less inhibited when teachers are not around.
  • An Inquiry Log will help students to keep tabs on their learning journey. Every choice, change in direction or exciting moment can be jotted down in the log. “When they are able to see where they came from and where they got to it is very powerful for them,” said Maniotes.
  • An Inquiry Chart is wonderful device which can help students to discover a central question or problem.

The effect of using these tools is to give students the experience of true in-depth creative thinking. So pull up a few folding chairs, set them up at the computer table, and get to work!