How can students find answers to their questions?

Students seek answers using the inquiry process. The inquiry process is a set of steps or tasks that lead from questions to answers to sharing those answers with others. Here, generally speaking, are the steps of the inquiry process:

  • Questioning: Students are just starting out, so now is the time for them to ask questions. Anything is possible. They should ask creative questions and deep questions. Imagine, wonder, dream, brainstorm, hope.

  • Planning: Next, students choose one question and plan how they will search for answers. They will decide what they want to do, what their goals are, how much time they have, and what resources they have. They plot their course.

  • Researching: Then students do research, gathering information and resources. Research involves working with media, technology, information, and people until students have what they need.

  • Creating: Students use their research and plan to make something new and amazing. They write, draw, build, design, sculpt, arrange. This part of the process might be messy. Let it be.

  • Improving: After creating something, students need to take a close look at it. Does it meet the goals? Does it do what they need it to do? What works well? What could work better? How could they improve what they created?

  • Presenting: Once the work is ready, students present it to an audience or put it to work in the real world.

The scientific method is one version of the inquiry process. The writing process is another version, and the problem-solving process is a third. All are forms of inquiry, seeking to convert the unknown (questions) into the known (answers) and communicate them to others.

Inquire: A Guide to 21st Century Learning includes an overview of this process (pages 235-242) as well as chapters that describe every step along the way (pages 243-314).

We want to hear from you! When do you use the inquiry process in your classroom? Which step is the biggest challenge for your students? Please write comments below.


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