Structured Inquiry

Teacher Centered Research

  • Students investigate a teacher-presented topic and related essential questions through a teacher-prescribed research process
  • Teacher leads the sequence of instruction and begins to release more responsibility for completing research task

We live in exciting and cautious times! Now more than ever, young people have greater access to valid and factual information, as well as inaccurate statements and false pretense. Through purposeful planning, teachers can scaffold instruction so that students learn how to 'search to research' meaningful information and move past the lower level use of 'surfing the net.'

For inquiry, the term structured inquiry takes on a dual meaning. First, it represents where we start with students, modeling research with teacher-presented questions and prescribed procedures (Herron, M.D.1971). And second, it answers parental concerns by providing student Internet activities that are directly supervised with teacher guidance. As students gain knowledge and research skills, their responsibilities, choice and independence increase within the school year and over the grade levels, and inquiry becomes less structured.

Teaching inquiry through scaffolding can be adapted in all subject areas and is widely supported in current professional literature:

"Teachers engaged in nonfiction inquiry explicitly teach the steps of the research process, model their use, and gradually release responsibility for learning." (Harvey, S. 1998)

"Explicit teaching involves four phases: the teacher explains and models a strategy; the teacher gradually gives students more responsibility for completing the task during guided practice; the students engage in independent practice accompanied by feedback; and the students apply the strategy in real reading situations. This kind of explicit instruction gives students the best shot at understanding and remembering what they learn." (Fielding and Pearson, 1994)

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