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Active Learning and Inquiry-Based Teaching Strategies. Lynda Paznokas Associate Dean for School and Community Collaboration Boeing Distinguished Professor of Science Education. Lynda and Skip Paznokas Pullman, Washington USA.

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active learning and inquiry based teaching strategies

Active Learning andInquiry-Based Teaching Strategies

Lynda Paznokas

Associate Dean for School and Community Collaboration

Boeing Distinguished Professor of Science Education

confirmation level 1 inquiry

Students given problem, procedure,

and outcome.

  • A concept or principle is presented and the student performs some exercise to confirm it.
  • The student knows what is supposed to happen and the procedure has been carefully outlined for the student to follow.
  • NOTE: Some people do not consider

this inquiry.

  • Realize that it is a very beginning approach

to inquiry for students.

structured inquiry level 2 inquiry

Students given problem and procedure,

but not outcome.

  • The student is presented with a problem but does not know the results beforehand.
  • Procedures are outlined.
  • Selection of activities and materials is

structured to enable the student to

discover relationships and to

generalize from data collected.

guided inquiry level 3 inquiry

Students given problem but

not procedure nor outcome

  • Only the problem to investigate is given to the student.
  • The students direct their own procedures and methods of collecting data from which concepts or principles are discovered and generalized.
open inquiry level 4 inquiry
OPEN INQUIRYLevel 4 Inquiry

Students determine their own

problem, procedure, and outcome.

  • The student formulates both the problem and the procedure for solving the problem, interprets the data, and arrives at conclusions.
japanese lesson study
Japanese Lesson Study
  • Lesson Study is an ongoing, collaborative, professional development process that was developed in Japan.
  • Many teachers in the U.S. and Canada are interested in the process to help them improve their teaching and their students’ achievement.
  • Lesson Study involves a group of teachers working together on a broad goal and developing lesson plans that are observed, analyzed, and revised.
lesson study process
Lesson Study Process
  • Choose a research theme (Example: determine how to increase independent thinking in students in math)
  • Focus the research (set a goal)
  • Create the lesson (select a lesson and follow an established lesson plan template)
  • Teach and observe the lesson (lesson is taught by a member of the group and observed by the other members. Focus is on students’ thinking not on the teacher’s abilities.)
  • Discuss the lesson (group discusses on same day)
  • Revise the lesson (revise based on observations and analysis; another member of the group teaches the lesson; process of observation, discussion, and revision repeats)
  • Document the findings (group outlines what was learned)
lesson study cycle

Set Goals→

Analyze and Plan→

Teach and Observe→

Discuss and Revise→

Teach and Observe→

Discuss and Revise→

Report on Goals

For more information

Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Lesson Study Research Group

Lesson Study Cycle
the big six guide to information problem solving
The Big Six™ Guide to Information Problem Solving

The Big Six is an information literacy curriculum, an information problem solving process, and a set of skills that provide a strategy for effectively and efficiently meeting information needs.

The Big Six skills approach can be used whenever students are in a situation, academic or personal, which requires information to solve a problem, make a decision, or complete a task.

information literacy science focus
Information Literacy - Science Focus

“In this age of tabloid news and easy internet access, students must be savvy information consumers. They need to be aware that not all the reports they see may be accurate or factual….Instead of unquestioningly accepting the reliability of what they read, see, and hear, they have the skills to test the veracity of the information themselves. They are aware that it is their responsibility to consider the reliability of the source, question the accuracy of the information, and confirm for themselves any news item that seems suspect. A reading public with these skills will be well-informed, scientifically literate, and discerning consumers of the media.”

Caracungan, C. & Kelly, S. (2002). The truth behind the tabloids. Science Scope, 27. 8-11.

big six skills
Big Six™ Skills

1. Task Definition

  • What needs to be done?
  • What is expected from the assignment

2. Information Seeking Strategies

  • What sources can I use? Once you know what’s expected of you, you need to identify the sources you need to solve the task.
  • This step is thinking about the sources, not actually finding the sources yet.
big six skills15
Big Six™ Skills
  • Location and Access
  • Where can I find those sources? You must find potentially useful sources.
  • This is the implementation of Information Seeking Strategies - #2.
  • Use of Information
  • What can I use from these sources?
  • What do I have to do with the information?
big six skills16
Big Six™ Skills

5. Synthesis

  • What can I make to finish the job?
  • Repackage the information to meet the requirements of the assignment. What product does the assignment require?
  • Produce personally designed products to communicate content.

6. Evaluation

  • How will I know I did my job well?
  • Did I do what I was suppose to do?
adults learn best when
Adults Learn Best When…
  • They have input into the selection of the content and even development of the learning experiences
  • The learning is connected to the vast background of knowledge and experience that the adult brings to the table
  • The learning is both received and processed in more than one way
  • The learning is collegial and directed at solving specific job-related problems
  • They have ample opportunity to reflect on the implementation of new competencies
brainstorming and discussion strategy 1
Brainstorming and DiscussionStrategy 1

Dialogue enables adults to achieve deeper meaning and understanding because they can utilize the skills of inquiry, reflection, and exploration.

Example: Participants are given a question to which there may be multiple answers. They brainstorm to generate multiple ideas.

drawing and artwork strategy 2
Drawing and ArtworkStrategy 2

Expressing oneself artistically has extreme value for total cognitive and personal development.

Example: Participants illustrate the meanings of specific concepts of content-area vocabulary to facilitate retention.

field trips strategy 3
Field TripsStrategy 3

Critical thinking skills can be improved by getting participants out of the classroom and into the real world.

Example: Virtual field trips can provide many of the same cognitive and affective benefits as an actual field trip. Participants view a distance learning telecast concerning a particular course objective.

games strategy 4
GamesStrategy 4

Appropriate games facilitate problem solving, cooperation, movement, and even self-discovery.

Example: Construct a facsimile of Jeopardy! By selecting important facts related to the objectives of the course.

graphic organizers strategy 5
Graphic OrganizersStrategy 5

Graphic organizers can be referred to as power pictures because they paint important pictures on the brain.

Examples: Venn diagrams, web organizers, pie charts, sequence charts, etc.

Participants could use a Venn diagram

(2 interlocking circles) anytime two parallel concepts are being compared or contrasted.

humor and celebration strategy 6
Humor and CelebrationStrategy 6

Humor enlivens participants, reduces tension, and increases productivity and creativity.

Example: Reinforce a concept to be taught by locating or creating cartoons, riddles, or jokes and integrating them into instruction.

manipulatives and models strategy 7
Manipulatives and ModelsStrategy 7

The most effective teaching techniques for increasing intelligence unite both mind and body.

Example: Participants demonstrate tactically their agreement or disagreement with an answer or their levels of understanding for an answer by doing one of the following:

  • Thumbs up – agree Thumbs down – don’t agree
  • Five fingers – completely understand One finger: Don’t understand
metaphors analogies and similes strategy 8
Metaphors, Analogies, and SimilesStrategy 8

Metaphors are a natural way for the brain to construct new knowledge and acquire meaning.

Example: Participants write metaphors that symbolize their understanding of two unrelated concepts. They explain the relationship between the two concepts to a partner.

The brain is a computer. Participants describe the similarities between the human brain and a computer.

(e.g. both have ways to access long-term memory)

mnemonic devices strategy 9
Mnemonic DevicesStrategy 9

People are better at applying factual information when they acquire that information through mnemonic strategies. (brain short cuts)

Example: Participants work individually or in cooperative groups to create their own mnemonic devices such as the order of the planets: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

movement strategy 10
MovementStrategy 10

Movement places knowledge at multiple addresses in the brain.

Example: In a Carousel activity, one topic (related to a bigger theme that is being taught) is written on 4 posters and placed at 4 locations in the room. Divide participants into 4 groups. Each group moves to a different poster, appoints a recorder, and is given 2 minutes to brainstorm as many things as they can remember about the topic on that poster. After 2 minutes, groups move clockwise to the next poser and add to the content already written. The carousel ends when each group has responded to all 4 posters.

music rhythm rhyme and rap strategy 11
Music, Rhythm, Rhyme, and RapStrategy 11

Music connects multiple brain sites by activating and synchronizing neuron’s firing patterns.

Example: Play appropriate classical, jazz, or another type of calming music as participants enter the classroom. Music will help to establish a supportive environment and assist participants in relaxing and reading themselves for the upcoming instruction.

project and problem based instruction strategy 12
Project- and Problem-Based InstructionStrategy 12

People retain and apply information in meaningful ways when that information is connected to real-life experiences.

Example: Following a workshop or course segment, assign a follow-up project through which participants can implement the concepts learned during instruction.

reciprocal teaching cooperative learning and peer coaching strategy 13
Reciprocal Teaching, Cooperative Learning, and Peer CoachingStrategy 13

Cooperative learning, rather than lecture, enables students to gain insights from one another, broaden high-level reasoning, and become a nation of student who think.

Example: Each participant turns to a close partner and reteaches a concept that the teacher has just presented or provides a summary of the key points in a class discussion.

COOPERATIVE LEARNINGAlthough programs vary slightly, three rules are generally in operation when students are working cooperatively
  • You are responsible for your own work and behavior
  • You must be willing to help any group member who asks
  • You may ask for help from the teacher only when everyone in your group has the same question
role plays drama pantomimes and charades strategy 14
Role-Plays, Drama, Pantomimes, and CharadesStrategy 14

When learners take on multiple roles, learning is integrated and therefore enhanced.

Example: Participants work in groups to write and present an impromptu television commercial regarding information learned in class. The goal of the commercial is to persuade the audience to purchase a service or buy the information presented.

storytelling strategy 15
StorytellingStrategy 15

Information is tied in our memories to the scripts that stories provide.

Activity: Create stories throughout the course that teach pertinent concepts or ideas that you want participants to remember. These stories preferably should derive from your personal experiences so that you can be sure your participants have not previously heard the story.

technology strategy 16
TechnologyStrategy 16

A curriculum that is technologically based is more complex, visual, specific, global, and interactive.

On-ling learning should be used to enhance face-to-face learning. There is no virtual learning miracle that will eradicate the need for people

Example: Establish electronic learning teams that give participants opportunities to discuss pertinent issues, share experiences, or provide coaching to one another.

visualization strategy 17
VisualizationStrategy 17

Visualization improves our ability to problem solve before, during, and after the learning or application of a task.

Example: Participants view a vocabulary word, math formula, or science process written on the board. The visual is removed and participants visualize the previous concept and jot it down on their papers. They then compare their visualizations with those of a peer.

visuals strategy 18
VisualsStrategy 18

Because the eyes send millions of signals per second to be processed in the visual centers of the brain, the brain takes in more information visually than through any of the other sense.

Example: Place visuals on the walls that support the concepts you are teaching. These could include posters, a sample agenda, key vocabulary terms, cartoons, positive messages, and so forth.

writing and reflection strategy 20
Writing and ReflectionStrategy 20

Complicated, multiple bits of information from presentations and observations can be organized and made easier to understand when written down.

Example: Participants write as many words and phrases as they can recall following the presentation of a chunk of information. They compare their list with that of a classmate and add any words or phrases from their partner’s list to their own.

assessment comes from latin asid re which means to sit by as an assistant judge
AssessmentComes from Latin asidére, which means “to sit by as an assistant judge.”


  • What learning you value
  • What skills you want students to develop
  • What kind of attitude you want them to display

How do you know they got it?