The advantages of inquiry-based studying in your classroom
contributed by Irena Nayfeld, Moderator of the TeachThought PD Inquiry Workshop
Those of us who spend our days with young children hear it all the time, “What is this?”
“Why are you doing that?”
Children are infinitely curious – they want to understand the world around them, how everything works, where it comes from and how to interact with it. And yet, research shows that children ask few questions during class—and that number decreases in later grades.
Why are questions central to learning, and why should we, as educators, prioritize creating a classroom environment in which inquiry thrives? There are many Ways to get students to ask better questions.
Always-On Inquiry: 5 Benefits of Inquiry-Based Learning in the Classroom
1. Questions show interest
We ask questions when something said catches our attention, surprises us, or when we hear something about which we want more information. Almost every question is a clear signal that says, “Hey! I’m paying attention and I want to know more!”
Are you asking a great question? That’s even more revealing.
2. Questions reveal gaps in – and strength of – understanding
As teachers, we know that not everything we say is understood the first time. In fact, it makes our work a lot easier when we are asked a question that can clear up a misunderstanding or explain something better.
Teaching students to ask effective questions can reveal what the child doesn’t understand and give us an opportunity to fill in the gaps and likely improve understanding for other students as well.
There is a Difference between a good and a bad question. Big questions show understanding and a full grasp of meaning in ways that answers cannot.
See also Why questions are more important than answers
3. Questions improve memory
Research shows that when you ask a question yourself, you’re more likely to remember the information you get. It makes sense – you’re probably asking about something that’s interesting or relevant to you, and by asking the question you’re personally investing in the answer.
Encouraging children to voice their questions can help them generate information that interests them and is more likely to hold onto after class.
4. Questions keep learners engaged
If we are open to children’s questions and allow room for discussion, lessons can quickly become more interesting when guided by children’s own questions, and they benefit greatly from asking questions.
A question can occupy a lesson in which the teacher addresses a discussion that is more relevant to the students, raises questions that others might have, and gets the students personally involved in the topic or activity.
Students need questions.
5. Questions form a basis for new knowledge
There are many Benefits of inquiry-based learning. Each subject or topic begins with broad, foundational information that lays the foundation for more in-depth or specific knowledge. A basic understanding of how plants grow is essential to discussing how desert plants differ from those that grow in rainforests.
A question asked at the right time builds that foundational knowledge – and with that understanding, the more complex, interesting knowledge takes root and learning has a chance to grow.
As educators, it is up to us to harness the natural curiosity of young learners and encourage targeted questioning in our classroom so that children reap the benefits of inquiry-based learning and develop a habit of asking effective questions.