What We Know
In response to higher standards and real-world demands, there exists a growing
need across content areas and grade levels for students to become resourceful,
effective investigators and problem-solvers. Inquiry-based teaching is a
powerful vehicle through which such goals for learning are possible (Barron et
al., 1998; Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999; Lappan, 2000; Owens, Hester, & Teale,
2002; Perez, 2000).
Inquiry-based learning appears to offer multiple benefits to students. Baum
and colleagues (1994) reported that with effective teacher facilitation,
student-centered inquiry projects can reverse patterns of underachievement (in
Owens, Hester, & Teale, 2002). Inquiry-based learning is effective across
Inquiry-based projects can build learning
communities that foster communication skills, interpretive abilities and an
understanding of issues from a variety of perspectives (Bruce, 2002; Owens,
Hester, & Teale, 2002).
Inquiry-based learning encourages creative
problem solving and risk taking in mathematics (Perez, 2000).
Inquiry-based learning provides opportunities to
understand the scientific inquiry process and to develop general investigative
abilities (such as posing and pursuing open-ended questions, synthesizing
information, planning and conducting experiments and analyzing and presenting
results), as well as to gain deeper and broader science content knowledge that
has real-world application (Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999).
Choice, personal interest and meaningful context are powerful motivators
(Schiefele & Csikszentmihalyi, 1995), and the power of inquiry-based teaching
rests in no small part on those aspects (Barron et al., 1998; Edelson, Gordin,
& Pea, 1999; Owens, Hester, & Teale, 2002). The key, however, to a student's
positive, productive inquiry experience is the teacher (Barron et al., 1998;
Lappan, 2000; Owens, Hester, & Teale, 2002). Inquiry-based learning requires
teachers to facilitate the inquiry process, granting students responsibility
for their learning while modeling and scaffolding the cognitive and
investigative processes involved (Barron et al., 1998; Lappan, 2000; Owens
Hester, & Teale, 2002).
Technology plays an important role in inquiry-based teaching. Computers and
the Internet provide students access to information and the ability to manage
multiple and complex sources; they also enhance students' interest, motivation
and engagement in active learning (Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999). Technology
further aids inquiry projects by allowing students to communicate with sources
and peers and forge connections between the classroom and the "real world," as
well as produce high-quality presentations of their results (Owens, Hester, &
Inquiry-based teaching is an instructional approach in which students'
own interests and curiosities drive the learning process and products.
Students select topics to research; formulate questions; collect, cull and
synthesize information; and, finally, create and present a product that has
real-world application (such as models, interviews, experiments) from what
they learned. Teachers serve as facilitators and resources (Owens et al.,