Imagine an after-school program in which second graders learn about chemical change by making pancakes. Or a club in which kids in fourth through sixth grades build a Rube Goldberg machine for a county competition. Or a group of teens re-engineering an underwater robot.
How do you, as the adult guiding the learning experience, facilitate inquiry to best engage them and challenge deeper thinking?
Adults may feel successful in creating a “space” where questions are encouraged, yet they feel challenged with how to further facilitate group learning, guide youth but not give them all the answers, and help deepen the learning experience with content or higher level thinking skills. These are strategies that will work in any learning setting, even if you don’t work specifically with STEM programming.
Inquiry-based learning is as an approach that includes exploring the natural or material world through questioning, discoveries, and testing the questions in the search for new understanding. -- Institute for InquiryHere are three strategies:
- Share a tool that describes the Eight Practices of Science and Engineering and operationalizes these practices -- that is, describes what youth actually do when they are using these skills or practices.
This tool from the Institute for Inquiry at the Exploratorium in San Francisco identifies what it looks like when youth use the skill or practice. Discuss this tool in training or orientation of your volunteers to help them reflect on their teaching experience afterward.
- Help strengthen the adult’s skill in guiding “inquiry talk.”
Guiding productive group discussions can be challenging. These four goals for productive discussions from The Inquiry Project help frame the role of the adult facilitator:
- Help individual students share, expand and clarify their own thinking
- Help youth listen carefully to each other
- Help youth deepen their reasoning
- Help youth think WITH others
The Inquiry Project offers nine “Talk Moves” to help facilitators reach these goals. This checklist includes strategies such as asking for evidence or reasoning, and challenging with a counter example.
- Offer time to investigate questions in the group.
When your group wonders about something new, be sure your adult facilitators know it is okay and even encouraged to “go off road” and explore a question of interest in the group. Although this may not have been part of the original lesson plan, adults (especially those in non-formal learning settings) can offer time for youth to investigate their own questions. For additional guidance on leading young people in deeper science investigations, consider viewing this webinar: Digging deeper into inquiry and further exploring the Eight Practices of Science and Engineering discussed by grade level.
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