https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=584095992235805;res=IELHSS Inquiry learning is a research-focused approach to learning, in which students pose questions, conduct research and draw conclusions from their findings (Green, 2012). It is a student-driven approach to teaching a learning that intends to engage students in meaningful, engaging research (Green, 2012). There are three types of inquiry learning; personal, collaborative and guided (Green, 2012). Inquiry encourages students to formulate their own meanings from the conducted research and engages them in higher order thinking then more traditional forms of learning (Green, 2012). The connections made through inquiry learning makes the knowledge gained more relevant and meaningful (Green, 2012).
https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=584095992235805;res=IELHSS Inquiry motivates students to engage with on-going, constant learning (Beatson, 2013). Inquiry learning is oppositional to traditional notions of education in which children learn via rote and direct instruction, instead of seeking their own truths (Beatson, 2013). Inquiry learning engages, inspires and motivates students while teaching them transferable skills that they can apply to all future learning (Beatson, 2013). Whilst traditional schooling is associated with knowledge gains, inquiry learning is skills focused, allowing children to build on their own education (Beatson, 2013).
All teachers acknowledge the prior learning and knowledge that their students bring to school; their culture, environment, family, community, experiences and knowledge affects all aspects of their education (Bushby, 2012). However, we frequently adopt a “one size fits all” approach to teaching and learning (Bushby, 2012). Inquiry learning stimulates student-questioning skills and builds positive relationships with education (Bushby, 2012). The skills learnt through inquiry learning encourage a positive attitude that contributes to children becoming lifelong learners (Bushby, 2012).
Inquiry learning is most frequently linked to science lessons in schools; however it is an integrated approach to teaching and learning (Torrington, 2013). It is most effective when teachers utilise scaffolding and prompting to guide student learning; whilst inquiry learning is student guided, it does not give them complete freedom (Torrington, 2013). The inquiry process encourages children to seek and create their own meanings, however teacher constraints are sometimes necessary (Torrington, 2013). Children may question at a much deeper level then they can find relevant, age appropriate materials to support their learning (Torrington, 2013).
In Giraween Primary School, the whole school approach to teaching and learning is inquiry based programs, or “wonder” (Rust, 2017). Wonder is essential for children’s motivation for learning while curiosity gives children the desire to seek answers and knowledge (Rust, 2017). Girraween’s approach is student centered inquiry learning in which classes conceptualise a problem, become researchers, find information, and sort and categorise learning before making conclusions (Rust, 2017). Through this approach, inquiry learning takes an integrated approach across all year levels and encompasses multiple cognitive processes (Rust, 2017). The inquiry project cumulates with a whole school “Field Day” in which classes showcase their wonder projects (Rust, 2017).
Blake (2009, p. 49) defines inquiry as “… a process of active exploration and a way of thinking about learning…” Children are curious learners; they engage with scientific learning from a young age and explore their surroundings using their senses (Blake, 2009). From this natural inquisitiveness, children are born as inquiry learners (Blake, 2009). Early childhood education (ECE) teachers are often advocates of inquiry learning as it is an effective way to engage young children in scientific learning (Blake, 2009). Scientific inquiry learning is an approach to teaching and learning that actively engages children (Blake, 2009). Inquiry learning is best used through a cyclical process of engaging interest, preparing for investigation, conducting the investigation, preparing findings and reporting (Blake, 2009). This approach ensures that teaching and learning remains meaningful and authentic (Blake, 2009).
Wang, Kinzie, McGuire and Pan (2010) are strong advocates for inquiry learning within the early childhood domain. Inquiry learning is particularly beneficial for the study of science and mathematics concepts wherein children must use problem solving and deeper thought processes to engage with learning (Wang, et. al., 2010). Computer technology is a particularly useful tool for inquiry learning programs as it allows children to engage with concepts, structure and support learning, and receive timely, purposefully feedback that can deepen knowledge and understandings (Wang, et. al., 2010). With children engaging so frequently with technology, its implications for inquiry learning are highly positive if the programs are meaningful, purposefully selected and used to scaffold explicit teaching and learning (Wang, et. al., 2010). However, the use of technology alone does not mean that children are engaged in inquiry learning (Wang, et. al., 2010).
When conducting an inquiry-learning program, students need guidance in order to overcome difficulties and to ensure that the learning targets the curriculum needs (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017). Computer programs and simulations have the ability to do this but should never be used as the only form of feedback in inquiry (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017). Inquiry can happen best if targeted through technology and hands on tasks (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017). The inquiry process must follow the five steps of inquiry; orientation, conceptualisation, investigation, conclusion and discussion (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017). Whilst the inquiry happens, teachers and simulators must interject with feedback to guide the learning (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017). The guidance can take five forms, limitations or constraints on learning, progress reports, prompting, suggestions and interjections with directions if the learning is not appropriate (Lehtinin & Viiri, 2017).
The teaching of Science in Australian classrooms is quite regimented and clearly prescribed by the curriculum; this is oppositional to what scientific learning should be (Alexander & Russo, 2010). Science should be an integrated, creative and engaging experience for children (Alexander & Russo, 2010). It should also be taught as an integrated teaching and learning program that targets a number of curriculum areas through science (Alexander & Russo, 2010). The easiest way in which this can be achieved is through inquiry learning and allowing children’s natural curiosity to guide scientific learning (Alexander & Russo, 2010). When children engage with science lessons that promote inquiry, their learning becomes meaningful, naturalistic and involves higher order thinking (Alexander & Russo, 2010). In order to create lifelong learning in science, programs are best taught through integrated inquiry (Alexander & Russo, 2010).