Baxter, J., Ruzicka, A., & Blackwell, S. (2012). Inquiry Takes Time. Science & Children, 50(1), 42-47.
This article provides a useful analysis of inquiry & problem-based learning for third graders in a science class. The article gives details of three separate assignments that help build students' ability to obtain inquiry-based learning. The assignments cover an entire year and are separated in quarters (fall, winter, and spring).
The first step is structured inquiry which starts in the fall and asks students to observe, describe, and categorize features of different rocks and minerals. The next assignment, in the winter, asks students to explore electricity through conducting an investigation into the likelihood that using a battery, bulb, and wire could result in lighting a bulb. Students start to build more inquire based questions by posing questions needed to complete the assignment, like "What does the wire need to touch?" Another assignment during the winter moved towards open inquiry and it involved bubble wrap.
The final spring project was on the life cycle of Wisconsin Fast Plants. Students began with open-inquiry questions which drove their group projects. In this phase of learning, students were to compare outcomes using controlled variables. The project had students plant their own seeds in Styrofoam cups and report their findings based on their chosen inquiry (like, does water effect how high a plant will grow?)
The article reflects the need for students to use a serious of steps (scaffolding) to reach the desired learning outcome, which in this case was to be able to complete an inquiry-based learning assignment. Students started with mere observation (rocks and minerals), moved onto guided-learning inquiry (will a battery, wire, bulb actually light a bulb?), to the development of independent questions that provided the impetus for the assignment. This type of learning helps to achieve the needed critical thinking skills of the 21st century learner and proves to be a very positive approach. Assignments engaged the students to which led to higher order inquiry based learning.
Very good and concise outline to help students acquire inquiry-based learning skills.