Written by Sumeet Ashat
Beginning at a young age, you often see children who continuously “test the water”, so to say. You may also meet some children who consistently ask questions. “Why does this happen? When does it happen? How does it happen?” These are all common questions of that so-called “annoying” child which parents, guardians, siblings, and even teachers, eventually discourage. From this, one key word should be noticeable. I mention “young” children or child repeatedly. This is because often times, we do not see this attitude or behaviour from older children or teenagers as it has been dissuaded from a young age.
As a teacher, however, my goal is to keep this attitude in my students, regardless of their age. I want my students to ask questions, find answers to their questions, and build on that knowledge. I also feel that it is important for a student to seek answers to help them advance and to not only learn concepts but to also completely understand them and why, how, when (etc.) they occur.
Through teaching, I feel that we can encourage inquiry in students so they can think “outside” and even “inside” the box. I think it is important for students to be able to think of their own answers and find ways to answer these questions on their own instead of just memorizing the facts or concepts that are being taught.
In order to encourage this concept of inquiry and to have our students thinking and asking questions, a method I find useful is inquiry-based teaching/learning. Through classroom and practical work, I have found this method to be a very valuable and effective tool.
Inquiry-based learning allows students to learn through exploration as opposed to passive transmission of information from a teacher. It requires students to interact with one another as well as the teacher in order to think critically and actively about the lesson. Activities often require students to think independently and ask questions in order to actively determine solutions to their problems.
The key component in this method is the teacher, who must be able to engage the students in order to promote their own learning. Once engaged, inquiry-based learning can be used to help students build on their existing knowledge and help them develop their understanding of newly-introduced concepts. It allows students to use their independent thinking skills and remind themselves of previously-learned concepts in order to answer the thought provoking questions being asked. It also enables the student to form their own questions about the material learned, thereby instigating student interest and engagement in the lesson. Different activities through this method can also promote student collaboration when researching and gathering information about various topics. This allows students to develop critical thinking skills through inquiry, and provides them with the opportunity to develop their own self-regulating learning strategies to guide themselves. This often results in a student-led classroom environment which is important as it benefits students to learn how to apply their knowledge instead of simply learning concepts.
Throughout this method of teaching/learning, students are consistently required to ask questions and solve problems. Due to this idea, students remain engaged during the lesson and are compelled to inquire to find solutions. It promotes student involvement in their own learning.
Finally, I aim to encourage inquiry in my classroom as often as possible. It will present students with the opportunity to actively engage with the content being taught and allow them to better understand the material and apply the concepts learned. Furthermore, it causes teachers to use their imaginations to create activities that will allow their students to engage in the material resulting in a proactive teaching approach.
Sumeet Ashat – 2014 Galbraith winner