Inquiry and Research Models

Inquiry and research models encompass a wide range of common strategies as well as diverse approaches characteristic of specific disciplines. However, the overall purpose of inquiry and research for students is not just to answer a specific question but more “to encourage high levels of critical thinking so that processes and resources are appropriate, conclusions are based on supporting evidence, problems are posed and solved, and decisions are made that will extend learning for a lifetime” (Ontario School Library Association, Information Studies, 2000, p. 16).

The process of inquiry is accessible to all students at all ages and abilities because it builds on natural curiosity. Many teachers and students find that the success of the inquiry depends on using a structured process that is clear and consistent across all grades. Conceptually, most research and inquiry models share similar stages:

  • Stage 1: Preparing for Research and Inquiry
  • Stage 2: Accessing Resources
  • Stage 3: Processing Information
  • Stage 4: Transferring Learning.

Once the problem to be solved or the information need is defined, opportunities to explore must be provided to link new learning to prior knowledge. This linking is a key factor in retention of information and a motivator for further learning. Exploratory activities include interaction with others and with a wide variety of resources – print, electronic, or human.

Understanding how the information is organized and applying organizational structures and mathematical or scientific concepts to data is an important aspect of transferring the learning to other problems and inquiries. Synthesizing and testing information prepare the presentation of findings and build new knowledge based on the inquiry. Throughout the process, an ongoing climate of evaluation and reflection should be encouraged. The teacher’s role in modelling and teaching strategies such as questioning, interviewing, searching, critical thinking, and presenting information is important in all stages.

Continual implementation of research and inquiry models in each subject or discipline, will help students to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and habits of mind that enable them to transfer their learning to solve other problems in expected and unexpected situations. Collaboration and coordination among teachers, teacher-librarians, parents, and the community can provide extensive opportunities for students to practise the research process, model appropriate learning strategies, and connect with a variety of school, community, and global resources.