The Art of Asking Questions to Facilitate Inquiry Learning

Inquiry learning, or inquiry-based learning, is about triggering a student’s curiosity. With this model, classrooms tend to be more student-driven than teacher-focused. With inquiry learning, a student’s own curiosity propels her to investigate a concept and deepen her knowledge with little teacher intervention.

This all sounds well and good, but how do we intrigue our students to such a degree that they are eager to investigate the topic on their own? Well, it all comes down to the types of questions we ask students- and how we ask these questions. Rather than a science, asking great inquiry questions is more of an art form. Here, we will provide some helpful tips for you to facilitate inquiry learning in your classroom by asking great questions and asking them well.

Why go to all this trouble?

A teacher-centered classroom is certainly easier to facilitate than a student-driven, inquiry-based learning classroom. So why go to all this trouble of changing the way we do things?

As it turns out, inquiry learning enhances the learning experience, leading to a greater level of engagement by the students and thus less classroom management problems on a day to day basis.

In addition, inquiry learning allows students to build critical problem-solving skills, fosters a zeal and passion for learning among students that they will carry with them forever, and allows students to take control of their own learning.

So, how can we ask questions that facilitate this type of engaged learning environment?

How to ask questions that facilitate inquiry learning

All effective inquiry-based questioning techniques have five things in common:

  •         The entire class is included in the questioning.
  •         Students are given time to think.
  •         The teacher plans out the questions ahead of time to make sure they encourage critical thinking and reasoning.
  •         The teacher avoids judging student responses or deliberately correcting them.
  •         The teacher responds to these student responses in ways that encourage deeper thinking, often by posing additional questions.

For example, if you teach an art class, you can ask students to think of the words that come to mind when they view a particular piece of art. Then, deepen their analysis further by asking why those words came to mind when viewing the art. Ask the students to be specific and provide visual evidence in their answers. Make sure you allow students time to view the art and contemplate it before asking your inquiry questions.

The don’ts of asking inquiry-based questions

When asking inquiry-based questions, you should avoid doing the following things:

  •         Answering the question yourself
  •         Simplifying the question after a student doesn’t immediately respond
  •         Asking trivial or irrelevant questions
  •         Asking several questions at once
  •         Asking questions to only the “brightest” students
  •         Asking closed questions with only one right or wrong answer
  •         Saying things such as “well done” that encourage students to stop inquiring
  •         Ignoring incorrect answers

Doing the above things can turn your student-driven lesson into a teacher-centered lecture. It can take time to perfect the art of asking inquiry questions, but practice makes perfect! Use these techniques in your classroom every day to promote the kind of engaged and passionate learning environment you have always envisioned for your students.

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