What is Inquiry?

Inquiry is a student-centered learning approach that focuses on helping students develop skills in three critical areas:

  • Questioning
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving

Inquiry focuses on engaging students in active learning, and is at the core of recent revisions of academic content standards, both nationally and in Ohio. Student learning is more closely focused on core skills in each discipline and the authentic application of those skills. Relevance and rigor become key elements of learning.

A variety of models for inquiry learning exist, and all focus on the three critical areas. Some models, such as the “5 E Model” arose from specific disciplines – in this case, science. Others, such as “The Big 6” and INFOhio’s Dialogue model, take more general approaches to the process of research, thinking and problem-solving.

All of these focus on students being at the center of their own learning. Teachers provide the necessary scaffolds to help them develop skills, competence and confidence to guide their own learning. Each varies in structure and employs varied strategies to build student competencies.

Doing Inquiry

“Doing inquiry” becomes a complex interaction between content and skills that results in student learning focused on both rigorous expectations and greater depth of understanding. Active student engagement in their own learning is key, and most models vary only in the concrete structure of the activity in which teachers engage students.

Through IMatrix, INFOhio chose to adopt a focus on inquiry, not as a prescribed model, but focused on the cognitive skills in which students engage. We call these the Dimensions of Inquiry –Questioning, Locating Information, Evaluating Information, Applying Information, Sharing Knowledge, and Reflecting on Learning.  This design helps teachers identify clear connections to instructional standards as they design learning opportunities for students. The matrix allows easy review of how the development of skills are scaffolded throughout the standards, and cross-curricular references to help teachers better connect skills across the curriculum so that students develop a more comprehensive, cohesive understanding of how these all fit together.

By focusing on inquiry, IMatrix is equally compatible with a variety of instructional methodologies that incorporate inquiry. Problem-based Learning (PBL), Project-based Learning, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) may all incorporate inquiry into their application.

Links for further research and deeper understanding