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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Inquiry Based Learning - Parental Techniques

By Andrew Loh

Inquiries, questions, queries and answers form the backbone of inquiry-based learning. The main goal of this approach is to raise curiosity level in children, so that they can find answers to any questions with their own efforts. With an inquiry-based approach, children can easily imagine things and scenarios that eventually provide answers to any types of questions. However, teachers and parents should learn the art of asking the right type of questions before trying to teach the basics of inquiry based learning. The basic of inquiry is very simple - "Questions are the answers." Both parents and teachers should pose questions that are open-ended and those lead to more answers. The basic art of asking questions is an artful thing. The questions that you ask should not confuse or mislead children; rather, they should open their minds to ask more questions.

Here are some simple tips and techniques to introduce inquiry based learning in your children:

Note: A question can be either very bad or very good! Just remember that questions can either make a child answer it or force him or her not to answer it. A question can easily open several conversations only when you ask it in a proper manner. Some pre-conceived ideas or prejudices can easily influence the kind of answers you get from your children.

Here are some simple examples:

Let us presume this scenario. Let us think that you are teaching your children how to write a poem on sunrise. Now, consider how children could respond to your questions. Here are some questions that you can ask your children:

  • "Nobody has ever written a poem on sunrise, did they?"

  • "Has anyone written a poem on sunrise?"

  • "What do you understand about writing a poem on sunrise?"

  • "How does a poem on sunrise feel like?"

Outcome: Do you think that children will open and provide answers to all these questions? Just consider the merit of the questions given above. The first question is completely negative and you can ensure a negative or no reply from your children. The second one is somewhat positive. However, your children are still confused about its merit. You can get a positive answer, negative one, or even a no answer to that question. On the other hand, the third one is sure to generate some positive answers. Your children may give a range of answers to your question that may range from simple to complex ones. The last question is an open-ended question that forces all children to provide a series of answers. In fact, that question will give many inputs to your children so that they can think over it before providing an answer. The question that you ask should have its own merits and it should invite validation of certain set of prior skills and knowledge.

Practice your questions in an appropriate manner. You may need to structure your questions in a manner that elicit answers from children. The questions should connect to your children's IQ and intellect. Never ever, ask questions those are above their intelligence. Limit your questions to suit their intelligence and skill levels. Now, what types of questions would lead to a properly structured inquiry-based learning session? Good questions are always open-ended and they give you definite answers.

Here are some questions that will create a good inquiry-based learning schedule:

Answerable questions: The questions that you ask should be answerable by your children. "What is the poem The Sun Rises in the East based on?" is quite answerable. On the contrary, "Why did Tom write it?" is not an open-ended question. In fact, you are shutting your children's mouth because they do not how to answer it. Your children will not have any answers in their mind. Consider another example. Let us consider the same poem. If you ask, why Tom chose that topic to write a poem, your children will not be able to answer because that person is no more and only he knows why he chose that topic.

The answer should not relate to simple facts: If you ask your children, "in what year did our country become independent?" then you are asking something that almost everyone knows. That information is available in almost all books. Instead, you can ask, "how did your country get its independence?" then your children will have something to think over before answering that question. In essence, your children should be able to conduct a small research in their mind before answering the question.

Your children should not know the answer: You may need to ask some questions for which your children do not possess a ready-made answer. Ask those questions that cajole your children to conduct a mental analysis.

The questions should be objective and reasonable: If you ask question that is not reasonable then your children may not answer it properly. Let us consider this example. "Why milk is white?" could be answered with a small round of research. On the contrary, "Why the cow made its milk white?" is not objective enough for a valid answer. Both of these questions look very valid and fit enough to get an answer. However, the second one is difficult to answer because of its nature. The second question may look all right, but your children cannot provide a valid answer because it is hypothetical and not appropriate for an inquiry-based learning process.

In essence, as the name suggests, an inquiry-based learning system works on curiosity and inquisitiveness. As your children, develop an ability to find answer to questions of different nature, their intellect and IQ starts improving gradually and in an assured manner.

Featured Resource

Inquiry-Based Learning Using Everyday Objects: Hands-On Instructional Strategies That Promote Active Learning in Grades 3-8
By Ms. Amy Edmonds Alvarado, Mrs. Patricia R. Herr

Object-based inquiry is a tested method that enhances the skills of the student, as well as the instructor, by engaging students in hands-on studies of everyday objects, raising their curiosity and enthusiasm for the learning process. Hands-on instructional strategies foster active learning, allowing students to investigate essential questions, while at the same time meeting curriculum standards and creating a profoundly new learning experience.

In this exciting new book, educators and authors Amy Edmonds Alvarado and Patricia R. Herr explore the concept of using everyday objects as a process initiated both by students and teachers, encouraging growth in student observation, inquisitiveness, and reflection in learning.


Featured Resource


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