Initial Publication Date: April 1, 2016

What Do We Mean by "Inquiry"?

Inquiry engages a student's curiosity. It offers the thrill of discovery and fosters personal interest in material, techniques, and requirements that may otherwise seem dry, inaccessible, or overwhelming. Incorporating real research questions, which may be very simple, into introductory curriculum offers students a potentially new and revolutionary view of life as a scientist. Participating in authentic research is one of the most powerful ways that a student develops a rich identity as a STEM scholar and future STEM professional, important factors in persistence and retention of students from underrepresented backgrounds (link to Persistence/Engaging students page). Whether or not students become scientists after graduation, the early introduction of inquiry-based lessons can be an important way that educators contribute to an informed citizenry that understands the motivation and processes underlying scientific discovery.

Definition and value of inquiry-based teaching: Expert opinions

AAC&U Inquiry and Analysis Value Rubric:
"Inquiry is a systematic process of exploring issues, objects, or works through the collection and analysis of evidence that results in informed conclusions or judgments. Analysis is the process of breaking complex topics or issues into parts to gain a better understanding of them."

HHMI: Preparing K–12 Teachers to Teach Inquiry-Based Science
"Even very young students have the capacity to learn from inquiry-based teaching methods, which require them to make observations, collect evidence, think critically, and use their findings to make predictions. Many studies and reports have found that inquiry-based science teaching is effective as early as kindergarten. The NRC calls an inquiry-based approach an 'essential element' of any science curriculum."