Jaime Patterson | December 2015

STEAM-ER Series: Deep Inquiry

Welcome to the STEAM-ER series!

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing Engagement through Rigor for each of the STEAM content areas. In the STEAM-ER series introduction, I shared five areas that encourage Engagement through Rigor: higher level thinking, engagement, deep inquiry, demonstration, and quality over quantity (see full intro article here).

Last week, we looked at engagement by way of content-specific activities.  This week, we will look at bringing rigor into the classroom through deep inquiry.

Merriam-Webster defines inquiry as: a request for information. An official effort to collect and examine information about something, and the act of asking questions in order to collect information.  Translating this into the classroom may seem easy, but there is more to inquiry than simply getting students to ask questions.  Teachinginquiry.com and thirteen.org offer comprehensive overviews of bringing the inquiry process into the classroom.


Science inevitably encourages questioning, but the process of teaching though inquiry does require ample preparation.  The Annenberg Learner provides an understanding of the basic features of inquiry based learning, description of how to set the stage, developing the process and designing the exploration, as well as how to assess the inquiry process.  Take a look at their process here.


Although technology is a content subject in and of itself, most of the resources available provide ideas for integrating technology into the classroom, not necessarily teaching technology.  There is a plethora of sites and organizations devoted to technology enhanced classrooms, teaching and learning with technology, technology tips for teachers, tech tools, and more.  However, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) developed standards for technology education in 1998, and later revised in 2007.  The first standard: creativity and innovation, and the fourth standard: critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making require the inquiry process.  See all six technology standards here.


Similar to technology, the teaching of engineering is still relatively new to the K12 scene.  So new that engineering does not yet have its own set of unique standards, but standards that are embedded in the Next Generation Science Standards which are not quite universally used.  However, engineering naturally lends itself to inquiry.  Built on the foundation of the design process, engineering encourages students to question reality and develop solutions.  Try Engineering and Teach Engineering are both resources with lessons on engineering that require deep inquiry.  The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association offers tips for bringing inquiry into the technology and engineering classrooms.


The creative process of the arts parallels the design process of engineering, both built on the foundation of inquiry.  The Museum of Modern Art offers information on Museum teaching strategies for the classroom, which is nice for arts integration. But, how do we make the arts classroom more rigorous through deep inquiry?  Since the creation of art already requires inquiry, problem solving, and decision making, let’s take a global perspective on the arts.  Have students take their art to the next level by using art to make proposals for global change.


Math seems to be the one place where inquiry can really provide engagement, but is the quickest to resist.  This is completely understandable.  There are so many skills needed to complete mathematical problems, but the traditional math classroom doesn’t always encourage student inquiry.  A math lesson, especially at the secondary level, involves the teacher teaching steps and the students trying to mimic the steps.This leaves little room for student inquiry.   InquiryMaths is a great resource for teaching math through inquiry. The University of Toronto also has a great resource for inquiry based teaching in mathematics.   Katrina Schwartz (2014) shared some insight on bringing inquiry into the mathematics classroom in her article Math and Inquiry: the importance of letting students stumble.


Higher-Level Thinking

These resources will help create Engagement through Rigor in all of the STEAM areas.
Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week
Next week Education Closet will be celebrating the Holidays with family and friends.  However, we will return to the STEAM-ER series in the New Year!  Happy Holidays Friends!

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.