Facilitating Inquiry in the Classroom, Part 2: 10 Resources for Student-Owned Questions

Illustration of kneeling figure who examines dice labeled Q, &, A

As a teacher, it is very hard to not answer student questions. Yet, if we want students to own the inquiry, it is important to practice “answer restraint” in order to promote not just student answers… but more great student questions. As we all know, children are born with a natural inquiry  and those first five years are a gold mine of inquiry, questions, and wonderment! As children enter school they soon learn to stop asking questions, and instead look to the teacher for answers!

In a world filled with so much instant information, it is important  to teach students to ask even more questions as they seek possible answers. So many times we talk about “lifelong learning” and its importance to personal adaptability in a rapidly changing society and workplace. It is developing student skills to ask good questions while seeking out more questions, and eventual answers, that are at the foundation of “life-long learning”! It is only when students own the inquiry that they also begin to own, direct, and self-regulate their own learning. At this point, learning becomes both passionate and authentic. The question remains, how do we as educators make it happen? Please take a moment to reflect on some of the major ideas and resources I have listed below. I am sure as you find answers, you will also begin to have even more questions. Embrace this idea, as it will lead to even more answers and even deeper understanding.  Enjoy the journey!

1. Discover QFT at The Right Question Institute -QFT, known as Question Formation Protocol is a simple way of promoting inquiring through collaborative groups of students. It incorporates the simple steps below and will allow your students to own the inquiry process while reflecting on their questions.

  • Brainstorm Questions
  • Identify questions (open and closed)
  • Advantages of open and closed questions
  • Rewrite an open to closed and a closed to open
  • Prioritize
  • Investigate

Visit the Right Question Institute to learn more and discover some wonderful educational material.

2. Explore Habits of the Mind – It is really is time to promote metacognition at get your students to think about thinking. It is only when this takes place that real learning happens. At the Habits of the Mind Institute, you can take a moment to become familiar with these important “Habits of the Mind” that will encourage the important thinking and metacognition to support “genuine learning”.

3. Read Driving and Investigative Questions -A unit of learning should start with a question that promotes more questions while also uncovering the standards. You can learn more about constructing Driving and Investigative Questions at this prior 21centuryedtech Post. Just remember that these are constructed for your students to answer.

4. Establish a Classroom Wonderwall – How about constructing a class Wonderwall where students can post their wonders? These can be tied to the curriculum or provide the foundation for student owned inquiry research. Take a look at this Edutopia article providing ways to incorporate the idea in the classroom.  It really can help build a culture of wonder.

5. Practice the 5 E’s – This is a model that allows for some teacher explanation, only after some student exploration and inquiry. After-all some concepts do need an engaging teacher lecture to encourage understanding. You will find the 5 E’s below in this included link from NASA along with further explanation.

6. Include a Genius Hour – Teachers across the country are finding ways to put that Google 20% in their classroom, while still supporting standards and 21st-century skills. This Genius Hour site might just help you get started in providing students the opportunity to learn how to learn, while practicing self-regulation. Best of all, it supports that important voice and choice along with spiraling inquiry!  It really encourages that important Maker’s Culture.

7. Establish a Maker Culture – The idea behind the Maker Culture includes allowing students to question, imagine, envision, create, innovate, play, learn in a formative manner, experiment, collaborate, share, and most of all dream of possibilities. I have numerous posts in regards to the Maker Culture and suggest this four-part Maker Series at 21centuryedtech with background and a goldmine of resource links.

8. Examine Inquiry Based Learning -Learning through inquiry can be powerful when done correctly under proper constraints. The standards must be kept in mind, and when needed, a proper explanation must be provided.  (5 E approach above). Edutopia provides some wonderful ideas and possibilities.

9. Incorporate PBL – Project Based Learning is a wonderful approach providing students with ownership in their inquiry and learning. Not only that, their final answer after many questions provides authenticity and can make a real world difference. To learn more about Project Based Learning a visit to the PBLWorks (BIE) is must journey. As a member of the BIE National Faculty, I am sure you will find a wealth of resources, research, and ideas!

10. Facilitate inquiry with Internet Resources –  You will find some amazing opportunities such as the ones below. Can you add to the list?

cross-posted at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana.   He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator   of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com.