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Inquiry Based Instruction: A Four Step Process to Student Empowerment


Having focused my higher education on lifelong learning, I studied both pedagogy (a child-focused teaching approach) as well as andragogy (an adult-focused teaching approach).  In fact, I believe that many of the distinctions in instructional methods are valid, such as children come to lessons with little to no experience, while adults come to the learning table with far more know-how and knowledge.  However, over the years of working with learners of all ages, I have found that incorporating many of the adult education principles into my one to one sessions with children has been extraordinarily beneficial.  In fact the inquiry-based learning approach, that is sometimes used in the sciences with children, can help student think and be used to bridge learners to a place of greater independence and empowerment in the learning process.

Inquiry Based Learning Helps to Unite Some of the Principles of Pedagogy and Andragogy for Young Learners.
Inquiry-based learning is primarily a pedagogical method from a constructivist viewpoint, that was first developed in the 1960s. However, it teaches students the following principles from adult education:
  • Learners can be self-directed
  • Learners can be responsible for their own learning
  • Learners can be internally motivated to learn
  • Learners can bring their own experiences to the learning process
Since inquiry based learning was proposed, a number of additions and revisions have resulted in a 4 step scaffolding process that ultimately teaches students to engage in and take on a self-directed role in the learning process.  
So How Have I Altered the Inquiry Based Approach to Empower my Students?
There are a number of different processes for teaching this approach and many use this way of teaching in the sciences.  I personally love to use it with my struggling learners for math, writing as well as test preparation.  I find that a well structured, scaffolding approach is best.
Step 1: Teacher/Learning Specialist Structured
In teacher structured the learning specialist controls the lesson or study session. Multisensory materials, manipulatives, and embedded memory strategies walk the student through the instruction.
Step 2: Teacher/Learning Guided
In teacher guided, the learning specialist provides paper, an ipad, or a dry erase board and pens to the student. Then the learning specialist provides the question or problem and guides the student through the process by having the student complete the question or problem steps themselves at the same time that the learning specialist demonstrates the process. Both the learning specialist and student writes out and then compares the steps or procedures.  The learning specialist then encourages the student to self-generate a memory strategy so they can remember the process. We often create colorful, step by step strategy sheets that can be compiled into a “strategy manual” that the student can refer to as needed.
Step 3: Teacher/Learning Assisted
In teacher assisted the learning specialist writes out the question for the student. Then, the student is responsible for following their own procedures and memory strategies to reach the answer.  
Step 4: Student Applied
In student applied, the student formulates their own approach to a new problem or concept they need to learn.  They self generate multisensory steps to learning, implement their own memory strategies, and then teach the concept to the learning specialist.
If you would like to see an example of one of my multisensory math lessons click here

Moving students from dependent to independent ways of learning will make the learning process fun and also provide students the tools and ownership that they need to become successful lifelong learners.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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