Inquiry-based education is as much about the question you pose as the questions you get back. Each one is a clue about each individual child's learning experience. Ms. Peterson, Grade 6 Science Teacher
Inquiry-based teaching covers a wide range of educational methods. What does it mean at Seattle Country Day School? As one of our teachers explains, "It’s not about me being a fountain of knowledge, it’s about students trying and testing until they arrive at the correct conclusion themselves—often in one of those 'a-ha!' moments they’ll always remember.”
Teachers start with the supposition that questions are often as important as answers. They believe the process of peeling away layers to find meaning, rather than supplying facts to be memorized, stimulates both the intellect and the imagination. Students are encouraged to seek answers on their own by using multiple paths and asking class-generated questions. Sometimes the field is wide open for free brainstorming, while other times, teachers use Socratic questioning to gently steer students toward greater understanding.
In sharing their thought processes and problem-solving techniques, students gain new methods for uncovering meaning, which nourishes flexibility of thought and respect for the multitude of ways that tasks can be completed. It also encourages high-level dialogue as students and teachers listen to each other and ask new questions, venturing to a deeper level of understanding together. In this way, new answers to old problems are recognized and valued while dynamic paths to learning are forged.
By empowering students to take initiative, the classroom becomes a kinetic, experimental space for students to blaze their own trails. Whether they are building, acting, hypothesizing, or creating, students—together and on their own—learn how to succeed fail, and, quench their curiosity. The result? Mastery of the subject matter, as well as a deeper understanding of themselves and the surrounding world.