Posted: August 31st, 2015



Teacher needs to:

Use questioning to help students determine what was learned and to evaluate the learning process.

Student needs to reflect on:

What have I learned?
How have I learned this?
How will I use this knowledge/skills?
Where to from here?

The role of the teacher in inquiry learning

As pointed out earlier in these notes, inquiry learning is NOT about the teacher having less to do and the student more, but rather a different focus – guided discovery. The teacher’s goal is to guide learners so that they construct their own understandings through carefully planned sequential activities that methodically build understanding and skills. This can also be misconstrued, as teachers believing there is no common destination. This is not the intention of inquiry learning but rather the acknowledgement that students will have different prior knowledge and experiences, different abilities, different interests and learning styles and therefore the journey to the destination will not always be the same. Whilst keeping to this analogy it is important to point out that the teacher (and the curriculum) determine the destination – it is the journey to that destination that inquiry methodology has changed.

Teachers must ensure that learning proceeds beyond fact recall and allows students to use more complex thinking skills. This is achieved by carefully sequenced stages (as indicated in the preceding model) and the use of appropriate teaching strategies within each level of the model. Some examples of such strategies that develop different thinking skills are: ‘Six thinking Hats’, Bloom’s Taxonomy, CAMPER, TABA’s deductive thinking, Predict Observe Explain (POE) and problem solving strategies such as SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis (Cornish & Garner, 2009; Reynolds, 2014).

Teachers have to be adept at planning learning that is both manageable yet challenging for students so that new learning occurs (we hope you are recognising Vygotsky’s theory here). Students will get bored and/or discouraged if they are not scaffolded (remember Bruner and Vygotsky) and thus clear, explicit explanations and teacher questioning (that guides students) are also a part of social science lessons and enable the inquiry to progress and interest to be maintained in it.

It is vital that teachers make the learning relevant to the students – as with all learning we learn best when we fully understand and appreciate the purpose or value of the knowledge and especially if we can use the knowledge straight away. Linking learning to authentic situations and contexts, incorporating problem-solving and ensuring that resources are engaging, reliable and rich makes for time consuming planning for teachers but results in deeper, more transferable learning.

Read: Reynolds (2014) Chapter 2 Prescribed text

Further reading:

Cornish & Garner (2009) Chapter 8

OR equivalent chapters in Marsh&Hart (2011) Chapter 6.7 and/or Gilbert & Hoepper (2014) Chapter 3

Reflect: Look at the different levels of the inquiry model in these notes and think about where these different strategies might best be used. What is the teacher’s role?

Equally important to the teaching strategies being used is knowing your learners and ensuring that the classroom environment is conducive to learning as well as teaching. By that we mean that students need to feel comfortable about making mistakes – that mistakes are a very accepted part of learning. Students need to be relaxed about asking questions – both of their peers and the teacher without fear of ridicule or humiliation. The talk in the classroom needs to be balanced – in many classrooms teacher talk predominates and the teacher asks most of the questions.

Hattie (2003) has extensively researched the difference between experienced and expert teachers. His research makes for interesting reading. What we would like to highlight for you here is that his research showed that of all the factors influencing student learning, the largest was the teacher (30%) and one of the biggest differences between experienced and expert teachers was the feedback they gave to students. “Expert teachers are more adept at monitoring student problems and assessing their level of understanding and progress, and they provide much more relevant, useful feedback” (Hattie, 2003, p.7).

Teachers who ensure they use explicit teaching of skills and give uncomplicated, well-demonstrated explanations will be more organised to give such feedback as they will have clear expectations of student attainment and the necessary steps involved and they will be structuring their planning and teaching to meet student needs and capabilities. There is a wealth of research and information on different learning styles and Gardner’s research about multiple intelligences has impacted greatly on how teachers cater for individual differences in the classroom (Cornish & Garner, 2009, p.192). We hope you are motivated to read further about effective teaching theories and strategies you are unfamiliar with. In the Learning and Teaching units (EDLT) that you will complete as part of your teaching degree, these theories and strategies are all explored in more depth. Suffice to state here, that good pedagogical practice is integral to successful social science teaching.

Cornish and Garner (2009), Ch. 6


Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (2011). History (Foundation to Year 10). Retrieved from

Board of Studies, NSW (2012). History Syllabus K-6. Sydney, Australia: Board of Studies, NSW.

Board of Studies NSW. (2006). Human society and environment K-6 syllabus. Sydney, Australia: BOS NSW. Retrieved from

Boon, D. (2012). Developing thinking and understanding in primary geography and history. In T. Taylor, C. Fahey, J. Kriewaldt & D. Boon (Eds). Place and time. Explorations in teaching geography and history (pp. 75-89). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia.

Cornish, L. & Garner, G. (2009). Promoting student learning (2nd Ed). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia.

Gilbert, R. & Hoepper, B. (2014). Teaching Humanities and Social Sciences (5th Ed.). Cengage Leanring Australia

Hattie, J. (2006). Visible learning powerpoint. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers make a difference. Retrieved from

Marsh, C. & Hart C. (2011). Learning, skills and inquiry in social education. In Teaching the social sciences and humanities in an Australian curriculum (6th Ed.) (pp. 128 – 154). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia.

Reynolds, Ruth. (2014). Teaching Humanities and Social Sciences in the Primary School. (3rd ed.) Australia: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, T. (2012). Introduction to inquiry based learning. In T. Taylor, C. Fahey, J. Kriewaldt & D. Boon (Eds), Place and time. Explorations in teaching geography and history (pp. 123-128). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia.

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