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Inquiry-based learning

With inquiry-based learning, students ask questions, gather information and ideas, examine relevant issues (big ideas), and make systematic attempts to answer the questions they have identified. The questions and possible answers may lead to possible actions.

  • Consider this inquiry: The relationship between form and function: is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Students could explore the concept of art and aesthetics by generating focusing questions based on art historical criteria, for example, design and style, form and function, and viewer response. New understandings developed by students could lead to them creating a computer-assisted presentation to be shared with the class and placed on the school intranet. A software programme could also be used to design a futuristic building influenced by classical architectural features. This links to the future focus principle of the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Consider this inquiry: Disenfranchisement in ancient Greece, Rome, New Zealand, and the world: do you feel that you belong? Teachers could begin by asking students to blog their own perspective on the communities they feel they belong to. This blog could be developed throughout the unit to reflect their increasing understanding of how a sense of belonging is affected by time, place, people, age, and gender. Students could also work in groups to create a concept definition map using the concept of ‘rights’ as their springboard. This would encourage them to draw on prior knowledge and experience to unpack the meaning of this concept. This can lead to the connection of ideas in different contexts.

You may find it helpful to read the Building Conceptual Understandings in the Social Sciences (BCUSS) book Approaches to Social Inquiry (Ministry of Education, 2008). A PDF file is available on the Social Sciences Online homepage.

Last updated August 4, 2010