Friday, January 22, 2010

What makes one inquiry-based lesson better than another?

What makes one inquiry-based lesson better than another?  There are many answers to that question and just as many different answers.  In my opinion it is important to start with a quality essential question that allows for students to be able to answer on many different levels with varying degrees of creativity.  Other essential components include opportunities for collaboration, inquiry which leads to a greater understanding, which leads the students to more questioning, encourages synthesis and evaluation, and the acquired facts can be transferred to new situations in a creative format. With this in mind I am very impressed with the following World War II WebQuest.


This WebQuest is very well structured while also allowing students to make their own choices and it includes opportunities for differentiated instruction.  The essential question is powerful and does not have one correct answer.  The students participate in the process of authentic inquiry by collaborating with peers to synthesize the information obtained through research to reach a conclusion.  Students would be further challenged to defend their answer to their peers.

Unfortunately this is not the case with the followingWebQuest.                                                                                                                                         

This inquiry-based lesson does not have much of an introduction or planning section.  Those sections are very important for the students because they essentially structure the project for students to follow and they provide for a successful learning experience.  Furthermore, the rest of the WebQuest does not offer an authentic question or problem, the inquiry process is not significant and the synthesis and evaluation is minimal.  Honestly, I do not believe this WebQuest involves much inquiry or critical thinking, but rather it involves restating ideas.

A well designed WebQuest is one that puts the student in charge of his or her own learning, allows students to use their preferred modality of learning and leads to a greater understanding that can be transferred to other areas of learning. These critical thinking skills are essential or students to acquire so they can become successful problem solvers in life.  After evaluating several WebQuests, it is clear to me that a quality inquiry based project is not easy to find, and that many of them that exist are merely short-answer questions disguised look like WebQuests.  There is definitely a need for more teachers to design quality WebQuests, which can be used effectively in a variety of grade levels for various subjects. 


  1. I agree that finding inquiry based webquests are hard to find. Many teachers have developed webquests that are simply restating facts without any additional thought required. And, they call this Integration of Technology because a computer is involved. These same teachers would not accept a paper that did not include some critical thinking on the students part. Great strides have been made, but we are still so far away. Great post!

  2. As I continue to ponder what it is that makes a WebQuest truly meaningful, I picked up on a comment you made in your post that I am adding to my "keep in mind" list. You said that you felt it is important that "the acquired facts can be transferred to new situations". This is brilliant! A Quest can be inquiry based, it can be motivating and interesting, but if students pull the plug on the knowledge when they are finished, then what's the point? Seeing the students transfer their new skills or knowledge to other situations as a result of a well crafted that's exciting.

  3. Maybe our summer class came in handier than we thought. The production of essential questions has helped us be able to pick out truly good questions that will continue inquiry and learning as opposed to those that can be answered in mere minutes. Sherry, I also found one of your comments on my blog to be useful as well in that a good webquest must also contain some area for student reflection at the conclusion. In a way, this is much like the essential questions in that the reflection can continue to spur on future learning and further reflection as well.