Coaches/Teachers: Guiding Inquiry-Based Learning


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How is inquiry-based learning central to this competition?

The Christopher Columbus Awards are designed to support inquiry-based learning as described in the National Science Education Standards: "Inquiry is central to science learning. When engaging in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge, and communicate their ideas to others. They identify their assumptions, use critical and logical thinking and consider alternative explanations. In this way, students actively develop their understanding of science by combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills."

Listen to a participating coach describe this student-driven, project-based program.

The Christopher Columbus Awards encourage teams to:

  • Investigate issues in their communities and make educated observations in order to identify a particular problem.
  • Use a variety of community resources to collect information (e.g., Web sites, technical experts, political organizations, museums, community leaders, etc.).
  • Repeatedly pose questions, look for patterns and think about relationships in the community.
  • Use tools to gather, analyze and interpret data.
  • Propose explanations, predictions and solutions.

How can coaches encourage team members' use of inquiry?

  • Explain the importance of inquiry while working in teams. Asking questions of others can reveal different viewpoints on an issue, and it also helps to uncover life experiences.
  • Point out how inquiry can help with community research. Asking many different people a variety of questions will open doors and help teams discover new ideas.
  • Remind teams that using inquiry is a good way to assess their progress and to discuss alternative solutions.

How can coaches facilitate inquiry-based learning?

  • Pose questions to the team to stimulate students' thinking (who, what, where, when, why and how).
  • Assist students in working through the problem-solving process.
  • Remind teams to consider all avenues of investigation and suggest research into:
    1. historical background
    2. social and emotional reactions to the issue
    3. economic influences, cost issues
    4. political issues and potential obstacles
    5. scientific variables (e.g., duration, weight, distance, temperature, speed)