What are Inquiry-based Lessons? Etc february 4, 2008 Guiding Questions

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What are Inquiry-based Lessons?

  • ETC
  • February 4, 2008

Guiding Questions

  • What is an inquiry-based lesson?
  • What observed attributes of a lesson would make it inquiry-based?
  • How should teachers consider the degree to which the inquiry is open, closed, or directed when designing a lesson.

What should teachers consider the degree to which the inquiry is open, closed, or directed when designing a lesson.

  • Audience/students
  • What needs to be learned
  • Time
  • Safety
  • Prior knowledge
  • Equipment
  • Facilities
  • Administration support
  • Budget

What is an Inquiry-Based Lesson?

  • Involvement that leads to understanding.
  • Converting information and data into useful knowledge.
  • The process of figuring “it” out.
  • Powered by question or problem.
  • Student centered.
  • Collaborate, question, investigate, observation.

What observed attributes of a lesson would make it inquiry-based?

  • Individual creativity.
  • Many perspectives.
  • Teacher is facilitator.
  • Student centered – generate more questions.
  • Structure to inquiry, general direction
  • Applicable to real world situations.
  • Focused on process rather than content.

Essential Questions

  • Essential questions usually probe the deep and often confounding issues confronting us - complex and baffling matters that elude simple answers: Life - Death - Marriage - Identity - Purpose - Betrayal - Honor Integrity - Courage - Temptation - Faith - Leadership - Addiction Invention - Inspiration.
  • By Carol Burmester and Susie Myers

What are the Characteristics of an Essential Question?

  • The question probes a matter of considerable importance.
  • The question requires movement beyond understanding and studying - some kind of action or resolve - pointing toward the settlement of a challenge, the making of a choice or the forming of a decision.
  • The question cannot be answered by a quick and simple “yes” or “no” answer.
  • The question probably endures, shifts and evolves with time and changing conditions - offering a moving target in some respects.
  • The question may be unanswerable in the ultimate sense.
  • The question may frustrate the researcher and may evade the quest for clarity and understanding.

How Are Essential Questions used in Inquiry-based Lessons?

  • Using Bloom’s Taxonomy is the focus of these lessons:
  • Essential questions reside at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1954). They require students to EVALUATE (make a thoughtful choice between options, with the choice based upon clearly stated criteria), to SYNTHESIZE (invent a new or different version) or to ANALYZE (develop a thorough and complex understanding through skillful questioning). Essential questions spark our curiosity and sense of wonder. They derive from some deep wish to understand some thing which matters to us.

Essential Questions Inquiry-Based Lesson Assessments

  • Lessons are assessed through each student’s ability through open-ended lessons using Blooms’ Taxonomy as a guideline.
  • Essential questions require new thought, rather than the mere collection of facts, second hand opinions or cut-and-paste thinking.


  • http://questioning.org/mar05/essential.html
  • http://www.fno.org/sept96/questions.html

Roles of Teacher

  • Encourages debate and Discussions
  • Mentor
  • Avoids being an authority figure
  • Uses appropriate questioning skills

Roles of Student

  • Makes observation & collects data
  • Formulates predictions
  • Work out relationships of cause and effect
  • Relates independent and dependent variables.
  • Learn to critique selves
  • Uses reasoning ability
  • Makes decisions and draws conclusions
  • Defends conclusions
  • Interprets collected data
  • Take ownership in learning

Student Questions

What Role Should Student Questions Play in Inquiry-based Lessons?

  • Students should come up with questions related to information they care about.

What Types of Student Questions Should be Observed During the Lesson?

  • Use WHY, HOW, and WHICH questions.
  • Answerable
  • Cannot be a simple fact
  • Answer cannot already be known
  • Must have an objective
  • Cannot be to personal

How Can Teachers Incorporate Student Questions Into Lessons?

  • Use probing questions and open-ended questions to evaluate learning.
  • Find a question that has no answer or infinite answers.
  • Categorize the questions by brainstorming.
  • Teacher helps to refine the questions so that the topic is covered.

How Can Teachers Incorporate Student Questions Into Lessons? (cont.)

  • Teacher may need to ask leading questions to help students engage.
  • Have individual students write down their own questions.
  • Teacher asks clarifying questions.

Use of Technology (Grappling’s Technology and Learning Spectrum)

  • What is Grappling’s Technology and Learning Spectrum?
  • How might Grappling’s Technology and Learning sectrum relate to inquiry-based lessons in an eMINTS classroom?
  • What do experts say about the use of technology in inquiry-based lessons?
  • A three tiered learning system divided into Transforming issues, Adapting Uses, and Technology Literacy Uses
  • In Transforming Uses there is a student centered focus not teacher centered.
  • The teachers role is that of a facilitator.
  • Computers can support the variety of ways learners construct their own understanding.
  • They can work at their own pace.
  • They individualize their learning according to their learning style.

Bloom's Taxonomy and Critical Thinking Through Inquiry Based Lessons

  • Bloom's Taxonomy divides the way people learn into three domains. One of these is the cognitive domain which emphasizes intellectual outcomes. This domain is further divided into categories or levels. The key words used and the type of questions asked may aid in the establishment and encouragement of critical thinking, especially in the higher levels. Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Project
  • Bloom’s Levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information

Resources Necessary

    • Use a variety of sources:
      • Web / Print / Video / Hands-0n / Tools
    • Manage the process
      • Too much / too little
      • Grouping / scaffolding / learner levels
    • Use the 5 E’s
      • Engage / Explore / Explain / Elaborate /Evaluate


  • What types of evaluation could be used in inquiry-based lessons?
  • Formative: As you go along
  • Summative: At the end
  • When should evaluation occur during a lesson? On-going assessment is conducted on an informal basis and evalution
  • is conducted at logical mid points in the process.

Role and Purpose of Student Products

  • Develop personal understanding
  • Answer essential questions
  • Web essay containing:
  • Scenario
  • Task
  • Resources
  • Product
  • Assessment

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