Our traditional education methods used to focus on serving ONE correct answer to academic questions in schools. It was a one-way teaching process where the students were passive learners. Asking questions was not encouraged or appreciated. Today, most preschools are moving away from traditional learning and leaning towards child-centered learning. With this, learning methods that encourage children to think, explore and wonder have gained popularity – and these are based on enquiry-based learning. Enquiry-based learning is a great way to encourage children to investigate beyond what’s right in front of them, creating more engaged learners. Instead of being made to listen and absorb information one-way, the child is actively involved in the process, which helps them to develop information processing and problem-solving skills. The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator allowing children to question and explore the many possible answers to one question.
To understand this method, let’s understand through an example of a popular preschool topic—Plants
- Initially, the teachers would ask general questions about plants around us, and listen for questions from children in order to lead them into an enquiry teaching and learning process. E.g. the children may ask why the plants are green or the reason some trees are so big or why plucking the flowers is not allowed.
- The teachers observe the children to find out their interests, some children talk about how they like to water the plants, others might say how a plant had pricked them once. Remember, all questions are valid and welcomed.
- Then, to guide them to the specifics of the topic—plants, the teachers plan provocations to develop the children’s thinking skills, inventiveness and reflectiveness. Provocations can be materials, objects, books, photos, drawings, nature specimens, and questions that develop a sense of curiosity in children. The teacher can show the children two plants-one which is not watered regularly and the other which gets enough water, sunlight, etc. The children can be asked about their observations.
- At this stage, the teachers can conduct a brainstorming session to find out what children already know as well as what they want to know.
- Next, the teachers plan activities for the children’s integrated enquiry teaching and learning experiences that include the sensory, motor, intellectual, and linguistic aspects. For eg. the teacher can provide a wooden puzzle of parts of a plant and let the children solve it by putting all the parts of the plant in their correct place. This activity would help in enhancing all the aspects mentioned above.
Thus, enquiry based approach is an active learning approach where children are responsible for their own learning. The approach promotes collaborative learning and takes into account the perspective of others, teaching them to be mindful of their peers while learning and discovering at their own pace. It also requires more efforts and preparation on the part of teacher to prepare for such sessions as the right kind of questions lead to the right kind of learning . But once a teacher gets used to this kind of teaching they find it very interesting and fulfilling and then they may not want to go back to the traditional one way approach.
Developing thinking minds right from early childhood is the need of the day . We do not want to develop followers but leaders and enquiring minds will ultimately lead to creativity and leadership.
Benjamin Franklin rightly said, “ Tell me and I will forget,
Teach me and I Remember.
Involve me and I learn.”