Supporting Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning

School principals, district administrators, and teacher leaders (including department chairs) are essential links in the adoption of inquiry as a way of teaching and learning. Extensive research evidence gathered over many years points to the importance of leadership from principals and other building level administrators in improving the quality of teaching and learning in their schools (Fullan, 1991; Prather, 1996). Support, guidance, and leadership are vital if teachers are to make major shifts from a traditional didactic style of teaching to one that emphasizes inquiry.

This support needs to have many dimensions, be on-going, and be tailored to meet the changing needs of the science staff as their teaching changes. Furthermore, it won’t be just the science teachers who will be changing; if inquiry-based teaching is to succeed, students, parents, administrators, and teachers of other subjects will be changing as well.

Support for inquiry-based teaching and learning must encompass several different elements:

  • Understanding what is meant by inquiry-based teaching and learning and knowing the advantages documented for inquiry by research;

  • Understanding the change process that occurs when teachers are learning to teach through inquiry and students are learning to learn through inquiry so that all of their concerns can be anticipated and support can be tailored to meet their evolving needs; and

  • Providing a coordinated support system that maximizes the staff’s opportunity to grow and succeed in teaching through inquiry.

The coordinated support system likewise has a number of dimensions:

  • Professional development

  • Administrative assistance and support

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