QUESTION

Asked by
Julie Moore

Dr. Julie Moore is the Executive Director of Secondary Education for Liberty Public Schools in Liberty, MO.  In that role, she works directly with building leaders on the implementation of district initiatives that impact student learning.  Right now, the district is focused on implementing PBL in the PK-12 setting to optimize learning for all students. In addition, her team has taken a deeper dive into John Hattie’s work with Visible Learning. Julie has spent 21 years serving in public education, 15 of those years for Liberty Public Schools.  She also spent six years in the classroom as an ELA teacher and working with at-risk students. Julie holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and a Master’s in Learning and Instruction from the University of Missouri-Columbia.


ANSWER

Inquiry can be a vehicle for understanding

By Edward P. Clapp

Thank you for your question—which is an important one. From my perspective and the perspectives of the research teams with whom I work, inquiry and learning are not meant to be mutually exclusive, but rather complementary parts of any teaching and learning experience. Inquiry may be described in many ways.

My colleagues and I think of inquiry in terms of questioning, looking and listening closely, experimenting, and focusing on the processes of learning. An inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is one that is student centered and exploratory—all with the goal of attending to content within a particular subject area.

Beyond rote learning, taking an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning may support young people not only in gaining knowledge, but also in developing deep understanding about a topic area. If young people can develop a sense of deep understanding through inquiry-based teaching and learning, then they will not only possess the knowledge they have developed, but will be able to perform their understanding of a particular topic.

Inquiry is a vehicle for understanding. And understanding, different from the accumulation of knowledge, entails being flexible with what one knows. It is this flexibility that, we hope, will support young people in exhibiting the proficiency of standards that are required of them in many school settings, while also giving them the opportunity to further perform their understanding in new and exciting ways.

Finally, giving students “choice” assignments can allow their sense of inquiry to blossom, while advancing their understanding of content. Allowing students autonomy—the ability to choose how to express their knowledge to their teacher—is an essential gateway to engagement; when students feel empowered, they become more excited to learn. View a selection of “choice” assignments here.

Resources for Further Learning

  • Inquiry-Based Instruction

    This study shows the effectiveness of inquiry-based instruction on academic growth in middle school science students.

  • Four Goals for Instructors Using Inquiry-Based Learning

    This piece introduces worthwhile strategies and goals for instructors in inquiry-based learning classrooms.

  • UDL Now!

    Online resources to go with Universal Design for Learning book by researcher-practitioner Katie Novak. 

 

About the Researcher
Edward P. Clapp

Edward P. Clapp is a principal investigator at Project Zero interested in exploring creativity and innovation, design and maker-centered learning, contemporary approaches to arts teaching and learning, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. Edward and his colleagues explore these issues with their teacher partners through a variety of different collaborative inquiries In addition to his work as a researcher, Edward is also a Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 2017 Edward partnered with Digital Promise on a Maker Learning Research Webinar on Maker Empowerment. See full bio