Inquiry for the Beginner Teacher, Part 3

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What Makes a Good Inquiry Question?
Coming up with a thought provoking, engaging inquiry question is probably one of the hardest parts of leading an inquiry.  As a teacher, you want to make sure that each student is being challenged.  You  want to ensure that the inquiry question leads students to analyze what they've learned and to think deeply. 
In my experience, it is helpful to dedicate an entire lesson to learning about what makes a great inquiry question.  It is important that students realize that they cannot ask a question that is fact-based and "Googleable".  Most students will really struggle to come up with an engaging question which is why it is up to the teacher to model and scaffold this part of the inquiry.  Higher achieving students will most likely come up with a great inquiry question on their own while lower achieving students will often struggle to find a question that truly engages them.  Conference with these students to help them come up with a question that will allow them to excel.

Great Inquiry Questions in the Ontario Curriculum
If you are struggling to find a great inquiry question that will lead to more good questions, look no further than the Revised Ontario Curriculums for Social Studies and Science.  These curriculum documents contain Sample Questions that can easily be used as inquiry questions with some tweaking. 

Examples of Inquiry Questions:

Grade 6 Science Unit: Space
Should we continue to explore space?

Grade 8 Geography Unit: Global Inequalities
Should Canada help developing countries?
Why isn't the world developing at the same pace?

Steps to Reaching an Inquiry Question

Step 1: Teach and model what a good inquiry question should look like
Step 2: Provide students with a general question that will inspire them to think more deeply.  Ex: Should we continue to explore space?
Step 3: Open up the conversation with students to tease out further questions and wonderings.  These questions will often be based on the student's own interests.  
                    -I wonder why NASA is trying to find life on Mars?
                    -Could a community of people live in space?
                    -What has space exploration taught us about the planet Earth?
                    -Who is responsible for cleaning up space pollution caused by space exploration? 
These questions and wonderings will become the base for their inquiry into space!

Lindsay Deschamps


I am an Innovation Instructional Coach for District School Board North-East in Ontario, Canada.


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