Inquiry-Based Education Awakens Innovation

Inquiry-based education awakens curiosity, wonder, and purpose in students. It elicits the evidence that we need to demonstrate students’ skills and their understanding of new standards. For teachers that means it is necessary to learn how to create classrooms that instill in students the drive for inquiry and innovation that they will need to succeed beyond the school doors 

So what is inquiry-based education and how, as a teacher, do you master it?  

Inquiry-based education simply means that if we want students to change the world, teachers must change their classrooms to foster inquiry and innovation. Inquiry-based education is about preparing students for the ever-changing world we live in and preparing them for careers in the 21st Century. 

An inquiry-based classroom

To fully take this approach to the next level teachers need to modify their classroom management to instill in students the drive for inquiry and innovation that they will need to succeed. To do this, teachers can use 20% Time, Genius Hour, and Project-Based Learning to make students more creative, inquisitive, engaged in learning, and self-motivated―the kind of people we need to move society forward.  

20% innovation time in the classroom

20% in the classroom, or genius hour, is an idea that simply means giving students an hour a week to focus on whatever they want. The concept has its roots in the business world and began with the 3M corporation, which allowed employees to use 15% of their time to work on their own projects. The concept was later adopted by Google and increased to 20% time. As one example, this led to the creation of Gmail. 

In a traditional learning environment, teachers plan lessons and direct students with set goals. But some are now experimenting with passion-based learning, which involves students spending an hour a week on something they choose to study. 

How inquiry-based education works

A recent article in The Guardian explains how this works. The article by Teacher Adam Schoenbart explains how he put passion-based learning into practice by allowing his students a class period per week to focus on what they were passionate about. The kids brainstormed what they wanted to focus on many ideas were based on career aspirations or college studies. The results included such topics as studying the possibility of colonizing Mars, the impact of bilingualism on the brain, the power of soccer to build community, how music affects teenage psychology and the statistics of Blackjack. 

Students had to hand in work each week, and had deadlines for submitting short blogposts updating Schoenbart on their progress and for writing an annotated bibliography. These checkpoints helped Schoenbart assess progress and give consistent feedback. Investigations resulted in a final piece of work showing their learning. Students got to choose how to present their final projects, with submissions ranging from presentations to videos and websites.

One drama club student, for example, interviewed experts about how to become a successful actor. She created a website, sharing resources, advice, and expertise for students who wanted to pursue an acting career. Some students investigated the role of police racism and bias in law enforcement. They researched the topic and interviewed local police officers about how it affects the community. 

Inquiry and innovation resources

The go-to resource on this topic — Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom by A.J. Juliani – provides easy ways to implement these ideas while meeting the Common Core standards and still allowing plenty of time for content instruction.  

Juliani’s book features the following: 

  • Research on the benefits of inquiry-based learning  
  • Connections to the Common Core State Standards 
  • Stories and examples from the field 
  • Exciting ideas for using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL at various grade levels 
  • Tips for preparing parents and administration for your new instruction 
  • Ideas for expanding your knowledge and continually learning in this area. 
  • Classroom applications for each chapter, including sample projects and resources. 
  • Bonus content with reproducible materials that you can use in your classroom right now, such as student checklists, questions, lessons, and unit plans 

A well-rounded and innovative education

Inquiry-based learning isn’t about standards or grades. The concept is about empowering students to own their learning. It has been found by many teachers that when students care or are excited they do more and do it better. The idea is that too much student learning is micro-managed and controlled. By allowing students to work on projects they choose and are passionate about it creates a well-rounded education. 

Are you a teacher who wants to learn more about how to implement this classroom management approach?