Inquiry-based learning is not a new concept in education, but it’s rarely something we discuss in homeschooling circles. The reality is that for those of us homeschooling gifted children, inquiry-based learning can be a powerful approach to their education.
What Is Inquiry Based Learning?
A mentor of mine once called inquiry-based learning “artful questioning.” Essentially, it is an approach to education that centers on a back and forth flow of knowledge between the learner and the teacher.
The teacher asks a question or poses a problem to be solved, and then the learner begins to share ideas and knowledge in response. This dialog continues as the teacher asks “artful questions” to help steer the learner to an applicable answer or solution.
In the classroom, this often looks like the teacher giving “control” to the students and allow them to create a space for child-led learning and exploration.
In your homeschool, it has the power to do the same.
The Five Elements Of Inquiry Based Learning
Although this type of learning really can as simple as asking your child questions to get them engaged and thinking, there are actually five different elements of inquiry-based learning in this model. They are:
- Engage – Asking essential questions
- Explore – Learner is engaged especially with hands-on activities and deep dives
- Explain – Learner explains what they’ve learned as part of the activity
- Elaborate – Learner begins to apply what they’ve learned to new situations and problems
- Evaluate – Learner reflects on what they’ve learned
I mention these, not to complicate this topic, but to show how dynamic this approach can be. It is these five elements that make inquiry-based learning so powerful for gifted students.
The Power Of Inquiry Based Learning For Gifted Children
One of the mainstays of gifted education is the concept of “supportive risk.”
Because many topics and subjects come very easily to gifted children, being presented with a high-challenge learning task can often lead to disengagement, perfectionism, and anxiety. It’s the paradox of working with gifted kids. They need to be challenged, but it must be done in a way that is not threatening. There must be an element of supportive risk.
Essentially, this means that “mistakes” (i.e. risk) must be encouraged and even celebrated as a necessary element of a gifted child’s learning. Risk is required, but only in a supportive and inviting learning environment.
Inquiry-based learning removes the black and white approach we often take in formal education wherein there is one right answer and the teacher will give it to you. Instead of one answer, this approach creates a dynamic in which there are many answers to consider. The process of engaging, exploring, explaining and elaborating carries more weight than the answer itself.
An Example Of Inquiry Based Learning
I have seen the power of this in my own home with my daughter. She has been absolutely loving her weekly sessions with Synthesis, but she didn’t start there.
At first, she was hesitant and anxious about participating in Synthesis’s gamified, inquiry-based program, primarily because she was worried about making a mistake.
Because Synthesis’s model is absolutely student-led and inquiry-based, she slowly but surely began to see that mistakes are simply a necessary step of the learning process. Now, she not only looks forward to being a part of her weekly cohort, she has become a leader within her group. Just last week, I heard her asking questions of her fellow students, supporting them in taking risks, and encouraging them to participate without worrying about mistakes.
It’s exactly what inquiry-based learning is all about.
Inquiry Based Learning With Synthesis
Because this is such a valuable element of gifted education, I was to pleased to discover Synthesis’s use of inquiry-based learning. Now that I know it, I am deeply impressed with Synthesis for gifted children overall, and my gifted children in particular.
Synthesis was created at SpaceX and is modeled after Elon Musk’s own school. It is an unapologetically accelerated program designed to challenge and captivate gifted learners.
The value of the program is how adept they are at artfully cajoling gifted kiddos into learning. They are masters of the inquiry-based model of learning. The cohorts of learners essentially teach themselves through critical thinking, community involvement, and experiential learning (i.e. learn by doing).
It is an excellent model for gifted learning.