Who am I and what is Inquiry?


Who is Sarah Kong and why is she starting a blog for Chem Ed X about Inquiry?

It’s true, most people have never heard of me.  In fact, Sarah Kong didn’t exist a year ago.  That’s because when I got married I changed my name.  As Sarah Toman I participated in Target Inquiry at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and that is really where I began to be very intentional about using inquiry throughout all of my courses.  I have been interested in inquiry learning my whole life, it is how I was taught by my parents.  However, through my years at GVSU where we discussed what inquiry means, re-wrote lessons over and over, wrote new lessons and tested them together, I really started using specific inquiry based activities regularly and thinking about teaching science the way science is done. 

Since my time at GVSU I have been able to attend several conferences (ACS, BCCE, Chem Ed, MSTA, etc) to speak with others about how they use inquiry in their classrooms.  Through these discussions my confidence has grown and as I continue to use this model in my classroom, I can see my students learning chemistry at a very different level than how I taught 10 years ago.  My goal is to use this blog to continue dialoging with you, my chemistry colleagues, in order that we might encourage one another, share and evaluate ideas together, and challenge one another with the ultimate goal of becoming better chemistry teachers and for our students to learn chemistry on a richer, deeper level.

First question:  How do you define inquiry learning?

Join the conversation.

All comments must abide by the ChemEd X Comment Policy, are subject to review, and may be edited. Please allow one business day for your comment to be posted, if it is accepted.

Comments 4

ALFREDO TIFI's picture
ALFREDO TIFI | Wed, 01/23/2013 - 00:46

Hi Sarah

I teach chemistry in Italy. I believe inquiry learning is a habit of learning through deep questioning of every source of information and, most of all, questioning one's knowledge and meanings, through a constant check for awareness of these meanings and their possible implications and need of revision. So this is not necessarly a lab related or only science related matter. Our school system and custom educational practice and assessment are definitively discouraging this habit.

Sarah Kong's picture
Sarah Kong | Thu, 02/21/2013 - 18:47

Hi, Alfredo!  I am sorry to hear that your school system is discouraging inquiry learning.  I agree that inquiry is not merely a lab related or even sceince only related topic.  Rather, I think it is a mindset, a way of teaching.  Through inquiry we teach our students to ask questions and to begin researching in order to explore more about a particular subject.  I began to use this method of thinking in my algebra courses and was amazed at the deep level of questioning my students were doing.  Keep encouraging your colleagues in this area, it is so important for student learning!

ALFREDO TIFI's picture
ALFREDO TIFI | Fri, 02/22/2013 - 12:00

Hi Sarah. I truly appreciate your encouragement and support.

I think IBL&Teaching are not so popular in most of educational systems... so we should enforce one each other.

Unfortunately my colleagues are both actively and implicitly encouraging me to give up.

The only chance I have is to demonstrate with facts that IBL is worthy and works.

And this is really hard in the context in which contradictory proposals, pedagogical principles and assessment

methods are simultaneously confusing the learner that is daily called to choose something to renounce to

if he or she wants to cope with heterogeneous duties and demands.

It requires enormous efforts to me too, and I'm dramatically hyper-sensitive to any minimal failure.

You can imagine what happens if students

a) recognize such sensitivity as a weakness of mine and use it as a dodge to become hint-dependent, and never become responsibly and individually engaged 

b) at the first difficulty self declare themselves as collectivley unable to think in problem situations, or that

c) the problems are too much complicated so they would like to occupy themselves with more confortable (algorithmic) tasks, that are more directly connected with good warranted grades.

My life is at the same time that of an equilibrist and weight lifter.

Tom Kuntzleman's picture
Tom Kuntzleman | Sun, 02/24/2013 - 11:21

Sarah, you state that inquiry is not limited to science.  This seems so obvious, and yet this idea has never occured to me before!