I have drafted some responses to the questions posed to us by The Day. It’s amazing how powerful it is to have a conversation among colleagues who bring different perspectives to it. I tend to assume that everyone defines concepts and terms the same way that I do. When someone asks me to clarify what I am thinking, it helps me think more deeply about my own assumptions.
Questions from The Day
What is inquiry-based learning?
Inquiry-based learning is grounded in centuries of educational theory and practice as well as in international documents. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has issued IFLA School Library Guidelines (2nd revised edition, June 2015. Editors Barbara Schultz-Jones and Dianne Oberg) and they offer an overview of inquiry-based learning and its major concepts:
Instructional models for inquiry-based learning generally use a process approach in order to provide students with a learning process that is transferable across content areas as well as from the academic environment to real life. These models share several underlying concepts:
Student constructs meaning from information.
Student creates a quality product through a process approach.
Student learns how to work independently (self-directed) and as a member of a group.
Student uses information and information technology responsibly and ethically.
The Galileo Educational Network (GEN) has been the professional learning arm of the School of Education at the University of Calgary for 22 years. GEN’s first principle is “Stewarding the intellect through inquiry-based learning.” GEN offers a definition of inquiry:
Inquiry is a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world. As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.
Darryl Toerien and I have enlarged the GEN definition to develop the following working definition:
Inquiry is a stance of wonder and puzzlement that gives rise to a dynamic process of coming to know and understand the world and ourselves in it as the basis of responsible participation in community (Stripling and Toerien, 2021).
Why is it so important?
The goal of any educational system is to enable students to become independent learners for life. Young people who pursue an inquiry stance have learned the skills, attitudes, and questioning mindset to negotiate the complexities of their academic and personal lives. They have the self-confidence to make their own decisions, draw their own conclusions, and pursue their own futures. They recognize their responsibility to participate actively and ethically as members and contributors to their communities.
Inquiry is especially important in today’s fast-paced, information-glut society when every individual must sort through volumes of misinformation, disinformation, bias, gaps, and information lacking authority, accuracy, and reliability. The questioning lenses and attitudes of inquiry will enable students to challenge what they read, see, and hear and develop new ideas and understandings that are valid and accurate.
What’s FOSIL Group’s theory on how we develop young people’s thinking skills?
We develop young people’s thinking skills by 1) validating their sense of wonder and questioning; 2) explicitly teaching them the thinking skills of inquiry and providing many opportunities for guided practice; 3) integrating the teaching and use of thinking skills into knowledge-acquisition experiences, so that students are not just receiving information delivered by others, but they are developing their own understandings based on challenging and interpreting what they read or hear; and 4) teaching students to be mindful of their own thinking process, so that their self-reflections lead to further development of their thinking skills.
What’s your view on how we teach young people to think more critically about world issues?
Certainly, an essential piece of teaching students to think more critically about world issues is to teach them the critical thinking skills embedded in the inquiry process. We must also enable students to develop a critical stance on the world, confident to question why, so what, what else, and what if any time they encounter a new or intriguing idea.
Along with attention to students’ thinking skills, we must frame their encounters with world issues to focus on the underlying themes and concepts and to help them make connections to their own lives. Student could read about famine in a specific area of the world, for example, but they may not do more than accumulate a few facts unless they strive to understand the essential problem or question (e.g., the underlying causes of famine; the relationship between famine and climate, government, or other factors) and they connect as fellow humans to those who are experiencing famine.
How can teachers apply inquiry-based learning when using The Day in the classroom?
The Day – for those whose budgets allow for it – is an amazing resource for librarians and content-area teachers, both for its intriguing articles and for its application to inquiry-based learning. Because of the framing of articles by essential questions and extension resources and activities, the articles inspire focus questions in multiple content areas. The same article could be used by teachers of science, math, language, and social studies to probe ideas in those content areas inspired by the article. Examples of those curriculum connections for one article, “A Fable in Search of a Great Humane Vision,” are in the FOSIL Group Forum discussion, Thoughtful REACTionS to The Day: Framing Inquiry-based Learning (https://bit.ly/3ujkzu7).
Articles in The Day can be used effectively for one-lesson inquiry investigations and as opening provocations for larger inquiry units. In both cases, the teaching or scaffolding of appropriate inquiry skills is embedded as a way for students to develop deep understanding of the content and start drawing their own conclusions about the essential questions (as applied to the teacher’s curriculum focus). Examples of a lesson and a unit around the “Fable” article have also been posted to the FOSIL Forum discussion, Thoughtful REACTionS to The Day: Framing Inquiry-based Learning (https://bit.ly/3ujkzu7).