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Expert*innen definieren „Inquiry“ (1996)

Im Exploratorium Institut for Inquiry, San Francisco, hat 1996 eine große Konferenz über Entdeckendes Lernen (Inquiry Based Education) stattgefunden. Alle Beteiligten wurden dabei auch gebeten, kurze Statements zu ihrer Auffassung von Entdeckendem Lernen aufzuschreiben.
Wir dokumentieren hier einen Teil der Statements im Original und deshalb in englischer Sprache. Ausgewählt haben wir vor allem Beiträge von Menschen, die unsere Arbeit in Deutschland besondern beeinflusst haben. Außerdem hat uns interessiert, was Künstlerinnen und Künstler von Entdeckendem Lernen halten und wie sie das Verhältnis von Untersuchen und Gestalten sehen.

Die gesamten 38 Texte sind als PDF-Datei beim Exploratorium zu finden.

Curiosity is the centerpiece of inquiry -- the desire to know (in Greek, scio. -- etymological root for the word science); and curiosity is indicated by a question or questions (voiced or acted out), e.g. "Would Napoleon have won at Waterloo if he had been well on 18 June 1815?"

To inquire is to seek, obtain and make meaning from answers to one's questions. In science inquiry, questions generally relate to natural and man-made phenomena. I identify the following components of science inquiry:

Noticing and raising questions about a phenomenon.

Firsthand inquiry involving exploration; generating investigatable questions and carry out as planned.

Documentation of inquiries (creating a rich portfolio of information and knowledge): records of questions raised, indicating which ones were answered and which ones were not, procedures followed, materials used and for what purposes, collected and organized data (e.g. in graph form, anecdotes, etc.) and of references consulted; journals and notebooks highlighting inquiries and resulting understandings.

Articulation of inquiry experiences: giving demonstrations, making oral presentations of investigations carried out; public defense of inquiries, findings and abstractions orally in discussions and also in writing.

Discourse on other people's related inquiries: comparison of own work with published material dealing with specific related aspects of science inquiries -- identify focal points of each source, meanings of the focal points, illustrations used to clarify the focal points, arguments advanced in support of the points, implications (as stated by the source) of accepting the focal points. The inquirer indicated points on which she/he agrees or disagreed with the source, bases for disagreement or agreement, relevance of focal points to own inquiries (sources include science books and journals, scientists and science educators).

Reflective Abstraction: inquirer must demonstrate how inquiries constitute science "news" or significant science knowledge; one must also demonstrate how the findings of the investigation can be used to build other significant science knowledge. For example, it is not sufficient for one who investigates densities of different liquids simply to report his/her results; it is necessary to make abstractions that relate to flotation and to ways in which the concept of density might be utilized to illuminate other inquirers. An inquirer also compares his/her "science" news with findings of professional sources in the selected area and test the reliability of both her/his "news" and findings from professional sources.

In the context of science education, inquiry is a major means for learners to extend their understanding of the natural and made environment. It is essentially active learning, inseparably combining both mental and physical activity. The motivation for inquiry is within the learner and the learner's relation to the things around him or her. Inquiry starts with something that intrigues, that raises a question in the mind of the learner - although it is not necessarily expressed as a question - something that is not presently understood, that does not fit with expectations, or just something that the learner wants to know about, defining the cutting edge of learning in a particular area.

The process of inquiry involves linking previous experience to the new experience in an attempt to make sense of the new. Thus it starts from what is already known or believed about how the world works. There may be several possible explanations, or hypotheses, drawing on different previous experience. In science this first step will be followed by some exploration or investigation to see whether what happens in a practical situation fits with what the hypotheses predict. There may be different possible interpretations and other evidence may need to be sought to decide what makes most sense. The fit between the evidence and the interpretation in terms of the ideas underlying the hypotheses should be the essential test of its applicability. But even though the evidence may fit, its limitation has to be realized and the idea accepted only tentatively, to be challenged by possible further evidence.

Learning through inquiry is consolidated by reflection on how ideas or understanding have changed and by reviewing and improving the process of working towards answering the initial questions. The latter is essential, since the learning by inquiry depends on how the testing (processing) of ideas and evidence proceeds. If it lacks the rigor of the scientific approach (controlling variables as necessary, for example) then ideas which should be rejected or changed may be retained and vice versa. The value for learning depends on the processes of the inquiry - the linking, the hypothesizing, the gathering of evidence, the interpretation, the communication, the reflection. Thus the development of inquiry skills is essential to the development of understanding through inquiry.

How inquiry is defined depends on one's definition of education. I have described a model for classifying educational theories in the two papers on Constructivism contained in the TEN web pages.

Inquiry as a pedagogic method is a process that occurs within the bounds of theories. For Discovery Education, inquiry is the process that leads learners to "discover" the concepts. For Constructivism, inquiry must include the second component mentioned below.

My chief concern, from my perspective, is that scientific inquiry be recognized as including two main characteristics. For me, these are necessary components of inquiry.

a) Science inquiry involves the natural world, that those who inquire subject themselves to the possibility that nature will get in their way. Inquiry in science must involve doing, it cannot be limited to theory.

b) Science inquiry consists of actions in the world that allow for multiple results. Any activity that is intended to lead to one result only (or in which the manipulation of the world is such that possible alternative lines of experimentation are prohibited) should not be labeled as inquiry. The definition excludes almost all school laboratory work, since that usually is intended to demonstrate a concept, not generate novel or diverse activity.

Much of our current work with schools and districts is guided by the idea that the first purpose of assessment -- for primary science -- is to help teachers document and understand children's learning. The assessment stance is one of inquiry, of "finding out." When a teacher asks: What have you noticed lately about our meal worms? or What are some things you know about shadows? -- the questions are not tests in disguise but rather reflect the teacher's attempt to support children's observations and to gain some sense of the direction of children's interests and thinking. Assessment as inquiry is intended to guide instructional decisions, not grade pupils. It represents an attitude as much as a method, and may be contrasted to the more common stance of educational assessment -- testing of "checking up" -- to determine whether children know the expected or desired answer. In primary science, there generally are no single right answers to children's investigations; correspondingly, assessment strategies need to be responsive to multiple, and sometimes unexpected, outcomes.

It is very difficult for me at this time to clearly define inquiry. However my understanding of inquiry becomes deeper over time therefore the way I describe it changes. There are elements of inquiry that I believe remain constant and can be categorized in many ways. Many of these elements have multiple meanings and can be overlaid with others. The elements I came up with thus far are:

  • Pursuing an idea, interest or question in a particular area
  • Understanding or having a willingness to learn what drives that interest and where the ideas stem from
  • Trusting previous knowledge and using that as a vehicle to pursue one's idea, interest or question
  • Understanding that there are choices that one can draw from
  • Creating an environment that is safe to work and pursue ideas, interests or questions
  • Having a choice of materials and developing a dialogue with those materials. Developing a knowledge about the relationship of the materials and the connections made to the idea, interest or question
  • Allowing the time to do what is necessary using the inquiry approach to working
  • Process
  • Following one's own thinking
  • Keeping track of that thinking
  • Exploring and using one's gut feeling
  • Risk taking and facing the void, that is, you know you want to make something and may or may not know what the end result will be
  • Working with accidents and sometimes following that path
  • Exploring areas of problem solving
  • Making an intangible idea, interest or question tangible
  • Making a feeling a visual experience
  • Developing an on-going dialogue and creating a visual vocabulary for future use
  • Understanding that making art is something that is yours that also can become someone else's (art that can evoke the viewer in a way that brings up issues that are personal, private and at the same address the artist's concerns).

"I can give you answers but I can't give you understanding." That's what I have to keep telling my workshop teachers as they struggle with their questions about the world. Understanding, connections between old experience and new and sense made of one's experience in the world is built by interacting with that world and reflecting on those interactions. Exploring, raising questions, trying things out, testing ideas, observing closely, making models and representations, talking with friends, seeking experts and books; all of these are part of the effort to learn and to understand. In the end, the workshop teachers may have some answers and usually have even more questions but they realize that this process of inquiry is the way that they can build their own understanding of the world.

Inquiry? What is it? There you go.

Within my area of work -- cognitive development and learning -- I'd emphasize that inquiry learning involves the active effort to understand a phenomenon, event, or idea.

The purpose of inquiry learning could be pure curiosity and fooling around, though it can also focus on seeking understanding for solving a problem or reaching a desired goal. In either case, I assume that the inquirer is INTERESTED in finding out.

This contrasts with many other learning situations, where the information is not necessarily of interest to the learner; if there is a purpose it may not be clear to the learner, and the goal of understanding may be less emphasized than the goal of memorizing.

Although inquiry learning thus involves an active learner, this does not mean that the learner is solitary or cannot be involved with others who may provide leadership in the inquiry. I have the impression that many who value inquiry learning shy away from providing leadership in learning situations, perhaps because most of our experience has been with teaching that is more didactic rather than providing support and guidance in inquiry. I think that this is one of the main issues for both schools (at all levels) and museums -- how to foster inquiry with intellectual leadership.

Writing is both a tool for inquiry and the subject of inquiry. On one hand, writing itself unearths new questions or understandings, discoveries or qualifications. On the other, writing invites questions about how writers write, about their processes, about techniques that help them. What writers write -- their intentions, their genres, the qualities and merits of their work -- these, too, are inquiry subjects in the field of writing.

Inquiry is central in Writing Project professional development where teachers come together, not as recipients of someone else's knowledge, but as scholars whose teaching approaches merit scrutiny and debate. Writing project teachers are themselves researchers, conducting studies in their own classrooms and presenting them at conferences, in inservice workshops, and through publications. Most important, however, is the stance of Writing Project teachers. As models for their own students, they are constantly constructing and revising, whether the construction is a piece of writing or a classroom learning strategy.

Children's inquiry in science is at the heart of what I do but it is not where my work lies. It is rather in thinking about how to create the classroom environment in which children's inquiry can and will take place and, more specifically, how to provide the adults who work with children -- the teachers -- with the knowledge, skills, art and craft of this thing loosely called inquiry teaching.

I would like to share my image of science inquiry that emerged from a dialogue between Hubert Dyasi and myself during the planning process for a two week institute on science education for museum educators. In our conversations we felt it was important to have a scaffold or framework within which we all could talk about the inquiry experiences the participants were having, the inquiry experiences they might provide for teachers who came to their museums and the inquiry of children in museums or classrooms. Hubert wrote about inquiry; I drew inquiry. The diagram was the result. It is an attempt to focus attention on various elements of inquiry; to suggest the importance not just of the experimental aspect but of deep and open experience with phenomena. Also it emphasizes the moment within inquiry when it becomes important to take early experience and from that ask a question that can then be the substance of an investigation that is more structured. It suggests, though badly, with its arrows and lines that there is only a tentative sequence to the process of inquiry and that the elements of open exploration, finding questions, focused investigation and drawing of conclusions intertwine throughout the search for understanding and for conclusions.

The diagram has proved useful, perhaps most importantly, to promote an understanding of the importance for children of the elements of inquiry that are often missing or under emphasized in classrooms: e.g. David Hawkins' "messing about", children's own searches for questions, and the conclusions, tentative as they may be, that children can draw from good work.




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