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Inquiry for Students, Inquiry for Teachers: New Research Supports Focus on Inquiry Findings

   Galileo Educational Network    October 14, 2016    Focus On Inquiry Research Series

From teachers who build towards inquiry in the classroom, to those same professionals who seek improvement by adopting these principles in their own practice, two recently published studies add to the body of knowledge that is inquiry-based learning.

In a study published in the Review of Educational Research, Ard Lazandor and Ruth Harmsen found the use of inquiry-based guidance principles such as using scaffolding, prompts, and explanations either before or during the instruction had a significant positive effect on learning activities, performance success and learning outcomes. These results were consistent with other recent studies comparing guided and unguided instruction methods, including studies done by researchers at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

Chapters three and four of the Focus on Inquiry digital resource shows how to design this kind of guidance into inquiry based learning for students, and how it looks in terms of teaching practice.

Professional development is the focus of the second study. Coby V. Meyer and several others examined eMINTS, a Missouri-based professional development program designed to promote inquiry-based learning by supporting high-quality lesson design, building community among students and teachers, and creating technology-rich learning environments.

A primary finding was the importance of the principal’s role in promoting effective professional development. This supports prior research highlighting the impact of a principal’s commitment to and involvement in teacher professional learning. Chapter six of the Focus on Inquiry digital resource is about ways for principals to strengthen leadership practices while students remain front and center.

Although researchers, educators and teachers alike struggle with a consistent definition of inquiry learning, these studies add to the agreement among most that inquiry requires the intentional guidance of student learning within a classroom by a teacher. And for teachers, sustained professional development programs that involve high-quality lesson design, community building among students and teachers, in a technology-rich learning environment, is the best way for the theory behind inquiry-based learning to turn into action. The result is a positive improvement in learning for students and professionals alike.