1+ lesson

Learning objectives:

Inquiry-based learning is an activating, learner-centered pedagogical model based on students’ own work and research. Learning process imitates scientific research, it applies same phases. The main objective of inquiry-based learning is to create true understanding of the phenomenon or the topic under study. In addition, during inquiry-based learning process the students learn vital skills needed in real life.

Description of the learning process and activities:

1. step: Creating the context
The teacher creates a context and learning environment in which the students work. 
The teacher introduces the theme and elaborates the task.

2. step: Setting a problem, topic or research questions
The teacher either gives a problem, a topic or a research question to the students, or asks them to come up with one. The questions “Why?” and “How?” are important, as well as the students’ own questions (what are their thoughts on the topic etc.).

3. step: Mapping students' thoughts 
The teacher tries to find out what the students already know about the topic and what kind of opinions, explanations or theories they have.

4. step: Evaluating critically the students’ prior knowledge
The teacher helps the students evaluate their knowledge critically – what do we know; what do we not know; are there gaps or contradictions in our knowledge; what do we need to find out etc. The teacher should think about how to achieve this concretely in advance and how critical analysis leads to further learning.

5. step: Searching new knowledge
The teacher guides the students on where and how to find essential information from various sources and platforms. The sources can be written material, the internet, experts of the subject, visits to different places (EOC) etc. The working methods can consist of reading, observing, experimenting etc.

6. step: Setting new questions
New information or new problems can be identified after or during the deepening of knowledge.

7. Developing a new functioning theory
Together, the students develop a new advanced working model according to their conclusions drawn on their new knowledge (the teacher should help the students to make the conclusions). The students’ learning process is evaluated: how did they combine their preconceptions with the new knowledge they just acquired? What did they learn?

8. Presenting the results
The students can prepare a presentation, a poster or a play, write a report and discuss about the results.

Shared expertise is a part of all the steps. The students work together and share their thoughts and knowledge throughout the process.

The topics for inquiry-based learning can be formulated according to the curriculum, students’ age, interesting current topics and sometimes students’ own interests also. Here are some examples:
-    Wonders of the forest (4–9 years)
-    Global world (7–12 years)
-    Sustainable development, recycling (4–18 years)
-    Sustainable living and circular economy (11–18 years)
-    Climate change (4–18 years)
-    World of energy (11–18 years)
-    Democracy and participation in today’s world (15–18 years)

Other topics related to the sciences: Ecosystem, The state of the Baltic Sea, Water as a substance, My surroundings, From seed to plant, How to protect from cold, What happens to different trees in the fall, The forest animals, Motion and strength etc.

Teacher's role and tasks:
- supports the whole learning process
- helps to formulate a meaningful research question
- is one source of information, if needed
- observes the learning process: offers help if needed, avoids interfering if students are managing well
- lets students solve problems themselves, also in process management
- encourages students: offers positive and constructive feedback
- celebrates the students’ achievements

Assessment in inquiry-based learning: Assessment is ongoing, multidimensional process that can include self-assessment, peer-assessment, and formative assessment. Assessment criteria can be negotiated with students, e.g. how broadly and deeply students understand the problem / topic, students’ working process (how they were working, sources used, lines of reasoning, commitment to work collaboratively, working phases and methods etc.), transversal competences. The most important thing is assessment of the whole inquiry-based process, not just the product.