Inquiry-based learning is a part of 21st century learning. It’s a way of showing children that there are many ways to solve a problem. The trick is to train young students to start asking three key questions:

How do I problem-solve through this?
How do I persevere?
How do I understand the cause-and-effect relationship that occurs in every field?

How can you as a parent contribute to this?

The answer is it takes practice, but the good news is, it can make conversations with your child much more meaningful than the usual, “what did you do in school today?”

Here are some tips:

Ask “what do you think will happen?”

You’ll probably find yourself in many situations in which your child will try and experiment. “What will happen if I mix oil and water?” is a good example. Talk through the possible scenarios and then, if you like, actually perform the experiment to get the answer. This exercise works well when reading to your child when they’re younger so you can shape their thinking process.

Ask big questions

Questions like, “How do you think this can impact the world?” for example or “How do you think this is relevant today?” can really get your child thinking about why we learn this stuff in the first place. A good example is given below:

D.J. Osmack an art teacher at Ralston Elementary School, encouraged his students to think creatively by teaching them how to make paint themselves. He then asked these questions: To guide his students in creating their own questions, Osmack asked:

  • How can you make this paint fit your needs as an artist?
  • As a scientist, how are you going to change or modify this paint so that it works?
  • What is your reaction to your paint?
  • Did your paint turn out the way you wanted it to?

Encouraged by these questions, his students began asking questions like:

  • What kind of artwork do I want to create?
  • Does my paint need to be thick, thin, consistent, or chunky to create the artistic effect that I’m looking for?
  • What ingredients would I need to add to create the type of paint that I want?

Ask for help with a problem

Asking your teenager to help figure out why a bulb is not working, or your preschooler why he or she thinks the toy car isn’t moving, is a simple way to build a culture of curiosity in your home. Questioning is proof that your child is thinking, so make sure you encourage it, always!