11.  What is the Student’s Role in an Inquiry-Based Classroom?


 Students in inquiry-based science classrooms demonstrate common behaviours and habits of mind when compared to students in traditional classrooms. Several of these include (adapted from Llewellyn, 2005):


  • Demonstrating curiosity, open-mindfulness, and imagination by acting/viewing themselves as researchers/investigators;
  • Developing interest and positive attitudes towards science;
  • Posing self-generated questions that provide insight into their understanding;
  • Asking clarifying questions;
  • Designing investigations based on their self-generated questions or problems;
  • Utilizing higher-level and critical thinking skills to solve problems and analyze collected data/ evidence;
  • Posing logical arguments to defend conclusions;
  • Working collaboratively to construct knowledge and build positive peer relationships;
  • Reflecting and taking responsibility for their own learning;
  • Connecting new knowledge to prior understandings;
  • Choosing effective ways to communicate their work;
  • Demonstrating science understandings in a variety of ways.


Children at each grade level will display characteristic skills. For example, children in kindergarten who are learning through inquiry might be seen:

  • exploring objects and events, noticing patterns and properties;
  • observing objects and events, noticing patterns and properties;
  • comparing, sorting, classifying, interpreting, building, creating;


 or,  they might be heard

  • making predictions and sharing theories (“I think that…..”);
  • generating questions;
  • sharing and discussing thoughts and ideas.

Source: http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesKIN/SchoolLeader/BuildingRelationships/Inquiry.pdf


All students should have an understanding of how ‘Learning Skills and Work Habits’ impact their learning and demonstrate how ‘Responsibility, Organization, Independent Work, Collaboration, Initiative, and Self-Regulation’ impact their assessment, evaluation, and overall well-being.

(Growing Success: https://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growSuccess.pdf)








When students are doing inquiry-based science, an observer will see that:

Source: "Inquiry Based Science: What Does It Look Like?" Connect Magazine

(published by Synergy Learning), March-April 1995, p13


Children View Themselves as Scientists in the Process of Learning


Children look forward to doing science.

Children demonstrate a desire to learn more.


Children seek to collaborate and work cooperatively with their peers.


Children are confident in doing science.








Children Raise Questions

Children ask questions (verbally or through actions).

Children use questions to lead them to investigations that generate further questions or ideas.

Children value and enjoy asking questions as an important part of science.


Children Use Observation

Children observe, as opposed to just looking.

Children see details; they detect sequences and events; they notice change, similarities, and differences.

Children make connections to previously held ideas.



Children Critique Their Science Practices

Children use indicators to assess their own work.

Children report their strengths and weaknesses.


Children reflect with their peers

Children Accept an “Invitation to Learn” and Readily Engage in the Exploration Process

Children exhibit curiosity and ponder observations.

Children move around selecting and using the materials they need.

Children take the opportunity and the time to “try out” their own ideas.




Children Plan and Carry Out Investigations

Children design a way to try out their ideas, not expecting to be told what to do.

Children plan ways to verify, extend or discard ideas.

Children carry out investigations by: handling materials, observing, measuring, and recording data.


Children Communicate Using a Variety of Methods

Children express ideas in a variety of ways: journals, reporting out, drawing, graphing, charting, etc.

Children listen, speak, and write about science with parents, teachers and peers.

Children use the language of the processes of science.

Children communicate their level of understanding of concepts that they have developed to date.

Children Propose Explanations and Solutions, and Build a Store of Concepts


Children use investigations to satisfy their own questions.

Children sort out information and decide what is important.

Children are willing to revise explanations as they gain new knowledge.






1.  Inquiry Based Science, What Does It Look Like? CONNECT MAGAZINE, published by Synergy Learning (March-April 1995): 35.


2.  Llewellyn, D. (2005). Teaching High School Science Through Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


3.  Ontario Ministry of Education, EduGAINS, Learning through Inquiry.                                               Retrieved from:   http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesKIN/SchoolLeader/BuildingRelationships/Inquiry.pdf


4.  Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Growing success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools, first edition, covering grades 1 to 12.  Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growSuccess.pdf