Good science education
requires both learning scientific concepts and developing scientific
thinking skills. Inquiry is an approach to learning that involves
a process of exploring the natural or material world, and that leads
to asking questions, making discoveries, and testing those discoveries
in the search for new understanding. Inquiry, as it relates to science
education, should mirror as closely as possible the enterprise of
doing real science.
The inquiry process is driven by one’s
own curiosity, wonder, interest, or passion to understand an observation
or to solve a problem.
The process begins when
the learner notices something that intrigues, surprises, or stimulates
a question—something that is new, or something that may not
make sense in relationship to the learner's previous experience or
The next step is to take
action—through continued observing, raising questions, making
predictions, testing hypotheses, and creating conceptual models.
The learner must find her
or his own pathway through this process. It is rarely a linear progression,
but rather more of a back-and-forth, or cyclical, series of events.
As the process unfolds, more
observations and questions emerge, providing for deeper interaction
with the phenomena—and greater potential for further development
Along the way, the inquirer
collects and records data, makes representations of results and explanations,
and draws upon other resources such as books, videos, and the expertise
or insights of others.
Making meaning from the experience requires
reflection, conversation, comparison of findings with others, interpretation
of data and observations, and the application of new conceptions
to other contexts. All of these serve to help the learner construct
an improved mental framework of the world.
Effective teachers rely on many different ways of teaching science.
At the Institute for Inquiry® we focus on inquiry learning, a powerful
tool in learning science and in keeping wonder and curiosity alive
in the classroom.