The inquiry teacher’s toolbox

what goes in the toolbox?

what goes in the toolbox?

What are the essential tools for the facilitator of inquiry?

The longer I teach through inquiry, the more I realize that I have much yet to master! I’m not going to lie - inquiry is difficult. No matter how well planned I think I am, facilitating inquiry requires me to be nimble; I have to be willing and able to adjust on the fly. Sometimes I think it’d be easier not to do inquiry.

That being said, there are a few things that I know a teacher must have in their pedagogical toolbox to support inquiry successfully:

  • A knack for finding good hooks to inspire curiosity and ignite inquiry
  • A feel for the dynamics of your class and the flexibility to act upon it (sometimes you’ll need to tear up your plan to go with the “flow” of the class)
  • A good brainstorming protocol for students
  • Organizational tools to help students structure their thinking (graphic organizers, planning forms, etc.)
  • Rock solid questioning skills
  • Poster-sized whiteboards and protocols for using them
  • Good discussion protocols for small group and whole class
  • A strong grasp of facilitation of small group and whole class collaboration
  • A method for delivering timely, effective feedback
  • Self & peer feedback protocols
  • Methods for facilitating student reflection
  • The willingness to ask your students for feedback on your class and the courage to listen to their criticism

What am I missing? What else would you add to the toolbox?

Image used under cc license from the flickr stream of Austin ampersand Zak

2 thoughts on “The inquiry teacher’s toolbox

  1. An understanding of the curriculum or the topic of study to know how to guide students through their discoveries.

    Whether through guiding questions or idea generation we can help students learn. I know that even my 8th graders often have very few, or at least don’t think of, ideas that will lead them to their next step. Once there, they go for it.

  2. Al,

    So true! Content knowledge is critical – it can help us ask the students good questions and give really effective feedback. That being said, some of the best inquiry I’ve facilitated has been when I wasn’t much more knowledgeable in the topic than the students and we all learned together!

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