In the past, traditional education stressed repetition and memorization, with the teacher as “sage on the stage” giving top-down lectures and directives. This taught students that conformity was good and that someone else always knew what was important and correct.An inquiry-based approach shifts the focus to the children themselves, who become active learners as they choose which topics to explore; research these topics; decide what to produce, create, or solve; and then reflect on what they have learned. It gave little room for different interests, talents, and learning styles and led many students to feel bored, passive, or inadequate. Today, schools around the world have replaced this model with a more student-centered approach as they seek to prepare students for a rapidly changing world in which flexibility and creative problem-solving are highly valued.
Often called an inquiry-based approach, this model harnesses children’s inherent curiosity to foster enthusiasm for learning. An inquiry-based approach shifts the focus to the children themselves, who become active learners as they choose which topics to explore; research these topics; decide what to produce, create, or solve; and then reflect on what they have learned. The teacher, now acting as the “guide on the side,” encourages and models exploration and enthusiasm, helps students develop relevant academic and social skills, and pushes students to stay on track and engage more deeply. This approach is intended to develop students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as stimulate self-confidence and a love of learning.
Each school is unique, of course, and some have moved to an inquiry-based approach more fully than others. Each family must consider what is best for their child, both in terms of what they want during the school years and how they feel a given approach will prepare their child for future opportunities. A school should be able to tell parents what their approach is, how they teach it, and how the students benefit from it.
- How do you support children who have learning differences or physical, social, or emotional challenges?
- What kinds of counselors, therapists, or specialist teachers do you have on your staff?\
- How can you help parents who would like to improve their parenting skills?