Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The difference between fact finding and inquiry

At school we are currently undergoing the PYP self study and I am chairing one of the teams looking at teaching and learning. At our last meeting we were discussing whether or not teachers were using inquiry as their main focus of teaching. My own observation has been that there is a lot of fact finding going on, but little true inquiry. Students are coming to the computer room to find things out, sometimes even trying to find out things that are impossible (Who invented the volcano? was one question a student was trying to find out recently!), that actually show they have misunderstandings that have not been addressed.

So what is the difference between fact finding and true inquiry? Well, for me fact finding is something you can do on Google rather like a scavenger hunt. Students type in a question and get an answer. It's highly likely that they won't remember this answer the following day - therefore this process adds nothing to a student's understanding and probably very little to his or her knowledge. In fact, remembering and understanding are now regarded as low order thinking skills in Blooms Digital Taxonomy. Higher order thinking skills include analysing and evaluating. It's important, therefore, that students are encouraged to ask questions for which there is no obvious "right" answer - this is true inquiry and involves investigation, comparing, hypothesizing, surveying and so on. True inquiry involves the students constructing their own knowledge. This is something that the students are likely to remember because it is something that they have come to understand through their own efforts. Fact finding, on the other hand, is more describing and explaining, recording and labelling, naming and listing - all activities that are highly forgettable.

This Flash version of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy is really useful. As well as explaining the revised taxonomy it contains examples for designing activities and links to rubrics.

More than a week later I have come back to this post as I just read a post entitled Wait ... Don't Google That! This blog post really highlights the importance of asking the right questions, rather than googling to try to find the right answers.

1 comment:

  1. I think that often teachers don't distinguish these two enough. You are absolutely correct, they are two different animals. While there is nothing wrong with fact finding on Google, I agree with your assessment, students likely won't remember it well the next day. Inquiry learning that leads to fact finding is my favorite combination! When students get so excited about a subject that they must know more.