Home + Summaries - Site-Using Tips (options) -   into left frame 

Use a Process of Inquiry
to teach Principles for Inquiry

Originally, this page supplemented my discussion session (for the 2016 California STEM Symposium about "Designing Our Future") that is described in a 1-page handout and here:


Using a Process-of-Inquiry to teach Principles-for-Inquiry

Learn how to ask Engineering Questions and Science Questions [including The Questions]* that stimulate students’ metacognitive reflections [about their thinking & actions, about what they are doing, when, how, and why] before, during, and after inquiry activities.  Guide the process-of-inquiry to help students discover principles-for-inquiry [especially about how we use experiments to evaluate ideas & generate ideas] that improve their design thinking (problem solving) skills in all areas of life.


* Two Kinds of Design:  A similar process of problem-solving Design Thinking is used for almost everything we do in life, for General Design that includes Engineering & most other activities in life, and for Science-Design.  You can see some of the process-relationships between Engineering and Science in this diagram:

3 Comparisons - one used for Science-Design, two used for General Design
This page contains:  Designing Instruction (Part 1) - Questions for Teachers (Part 1) - Questions for Students (especially about Using Experiments) - Questions for Teachers (Part 2) - Designing Instruction (Part 2)




Designing Instruction — Part 1

How can you design instruction that will help students learn more effectively, with more fun?  This is a problem (an opportunity to “make it better”) that you can solve with Design Thinking.

In one useful problem-solving approach – in a Goal-Directed Designing of Instruction – you:

    • Define GOALS for desired outcomes, for the ideas & skills you want students to learn;
    • Design INSTRUCTION with Learning Activities that will provide opportunities for experience with these ideas & skills, and (typically in mini-Activities with guiding by a teacher)* will help students learn more from their experiences.

Basically, the first • is about WHAT to Teach, and the second • is HOW to Teach.


* A common mini-activity is asking QUESTIONS that direct a student's attention to “what can be learned” from an experience.  Your questions will help students reflect on their experiences in a sequence of experience+reflection→principles in a teaching strategy of using inquiry-process to teach inquiry-principles.


options: You can read Designing Instruction - Part 2 now, or after you explore Questions (intended to teach Goals) in the next three sections.


Questions for Teachers — Part 1

In a Goal-Directed Designing of Instruction you ask yourself:

    • What are my educational GOALS for the ideas & skills that I want students to learn?
    • What goal-directed QUESTIONS can I ask students, to help them learn these ideas & skills?

The questions below — including THE Questions for Science & Engineering — are intended to stimulate thinking by teachers, to help you:

    • first define your educational GOALS for ideas & skills;
    • then design goal-directed QUESTIONS for students, by using one of my questions as-is, or with revising (with adaptations to make it more useful for helping students learn), or by inventing a new question.


Experiment-Questions:   What is an experiment? (a broad definition is useful for thinking & discussing)    What information can be generated with an experiment that is done physically? is done mentally? (to define observations and predictions)   How do students make an observation?  How do students make a prediction?

Science Questions:   When students do science, what action-skills are they using, that they can understand & improve?  (or - in NGSS, what are the Scientific Practices?)

Engineering Questions:   When students do engineering, what action-skills are they using, that they can understand & improve?  (or - in NGSS, what are the Engineering Practices?)


Process Questions:   How do these action-skills interact during an overall process of science?  ...during an overall process of engineering?

Process Questions for Experiments:   How do we design experiments?  and do experiments?  and use experiments?    More specifically, how do we use experiments to evaluate ideas, and generate ideas? (in science? in engineering?)     { These questions are useful because experiments play central roles in our process of solving problems. }


THE Questions:  For you,* what is...

    THE Science Question?  (i.e., what question directs attention to the essence of Science Process?)
    THE Engineering Question?  (i.e., what question directs attention to the essence of Engineering Process?)

* my Science Question & Engineering Question are below in Questions for Students, which is followed by Questions for Teachers – Part 2 and Goal-Directed Designing of Instruction – Part 2.  You can read these three sections (Questions... Questions... Goal-Directed...) in any order you want.


Questions about Coordination:  How do students coordinate their process of problem solving, by deciding “what to do next?” (i.e., what is the best use of my time right now? and later?)

Questions about Quality Control:  How can students improve in quality & consistency of their skills, and their process?  (e.g. should they make-and-use a checklist?  will metacognitive reflection on their actions-and-results help them learn more from their experiences so they can improve?)


Questions for Students

Above in Questions for Teachers, I asked "for you, what is The Science Question? [and] ... The Engineering Question?"   Here are my Questions and Answers:


THE SCIENCE QUESTION - about Reality Checks

my Question(s):  During an activity, after students make an Observation you (the teacher) can ask “were you surprised?” or, more specifically, “when you observed      , were you surprised?”   Then, whether they answer Yes or No, you can follow up with a why-question by asking “why?” or “why not?”   And a what-question: “What does your surprise (or non-surprise) tell you? – i.e., what can you learn from your experimenting?”

my Answers:  Students will recognize that they are surprised when an Observation (from a Physical Experiment) doesn't match their expectations about what will happen, when it doesn't match their Predictions (from a Mental Experiment).  When they compare Predictions with Observations, they are doing an evaluative Reality Check to determine if there is a close match between “the way they think the world works” and “how it really works.”  A Reality Check tests the Predictive Accuracy of the Explanatory Model they are using to make Predictions, and if the match isn't close enough they may want to revise their Model.     {combining Predictive Accuracy with other Goal-Criteria}

more - Generating new Options:  Then, regarding a possible next step in their Science Process, ask “is your Reality Check an Evaluation?” and “how will you (or how did you) use this Evaluation?”

more - Designing new Experiments:  Or, for another possible next step, ask “what other Experiments could you do (mentally or physically) to get additional Experimental Information (Predictions or Observations) about your Explanatory Model?  or about a competitive Explanatory Model?”



my Question(s):  After students have Evaluated an Option,* the teacher can ask “Would this Option be a good Solution?  What are its advantages and disadvantages, as a potential Solution for the Problem? (i.e. what are its pros & cons?)  How does its overall quality compare with other Options?”   Then you can follow up with a how-question, by asking “How did you decide whether this Option might be a good Solution?”

my Answers:  Eventually, after they reflect on what they did, and perhaps after some follow-up questions, students will recognize that they compared Observations (of the Option's observed properties) with their Goals (for a Solution's desired properties), so in this evaluative Quality Check they defined Quality (for the Option) by their Goals.*  Or, in another kind of Quality Check, they can compare Predictions (about the Option's expected properties) with their Goals (for desired properties).     {a useful term:  After you have asked “How do we define Quality?” (by our Goals) and have defined quality (as a new term), in the future The Engineering Question can be “What is the Quality of this Option?” and then “How did you (or how will you) determine its Quality?” }

more - Generating new Options:  Then, regarding a possible next step in their Engineering Process, ask “is your Quality Check an Evaluation?” and “how will you (or how did you) use this Evaluation?

more - Designing new Experiments: Or, for another possible next step, ask “what other Experiments could you do (mentally or physically) to get more Experimental Information (Predictions or Observations) about the overall Quality of this Option?  or about a competitive Option?”     { You need multiple Quality Checks using multiple Experiments – with each being an Option operating in a Situation – to evaluate multiple Options, based on multiple Goal-Criteria. }


* What happens, during Engineering Process, before we can ask The Engineering Question?

Every useful model for problem-solving process, including my model for Design Process, begins with preparation when students Learn More (to understand better) so they, as individuals or in groups, can Define their Objective (for a Problem, for what they want to “make better”) and Define their Goals (for a satisfactory Problem-Solution).  Then they Generate Options for a Problem-Solution (for a better Product, Activity, Strategy, or Explanatory Model) and Evaluate Options.

A teacher can ask many thought-stimulating questions during this process of Learning and Defining.   {iou - Later there will be more about this, especially about the importance of learning more (so you will understand better) and defining well because when you "Define A Problem [by Defining its Objective-and-Goals, based on what you are Learning about the Problem Situation]... this determines what you can achieve if you Solve The Problem."}

Thinking with Empathy:  Especially when we want to “make it better” for other people, for the most important things in life, questions about thinking with empathy are especially useful.  When students are Defining an Objective (for WHAT to make better) and Defining Goals (for HOW it could be better), you can ask useful questions about assuming a different point-of-view for goals, by asking "what do THEY want?"  You also can ask "what do YOU want?" so students are encouraged to improve their empathetic other-understanding and also their metacognitive self-understanding.



Other Questions for Students

Strategies for Teaching:  Below the focus is “just questions” but of course you will use question-asking as a tool for teaching, in the context of your overall strategies for teaching that include strategies for designing Activities (with Mini-Activities) and strategies for asking questions during Mini-Activities.



After students have learned — by thinking about the questions you ask, and in other ways — some process-Principles, you can lead them in...


Activities to promote Verbal-Visual Discoveries:

Students can discover how Principles coherently “fit together” in a creative-and-critical process of solving problems, by exploring a diagram for problem-solving Design Thinking Process while asking “what part of the problem-solving process is in each part of this diagram?”

How?  And with what kinds of questions?

You can begin with Diagram 1,

then move on to 2a (maybe asking “what is happening in the top and bottom parts?  the symbolism of pink and blue?” [pink is Generation, blue is Evaluation, and the bottom part shows How to Evaluate an Option],  and “what is the symbolism of yellow & green? of left & right sides?”  and “each time you see the word ‘use’, can you explain what is being used, and how, and why?”,  and “Why are there two arrows, , between the top part (Define) and bottom part (Solve)?” [an explanation of "why..."],  and so on;

then look at Diagram 3a, asking “what are the 3 Comparisons?  in each, what is being compared and why? (i.e. what can you learn by doing the comparison?)” [Diagrams 3 & 4 are useful for understanding relationships between General Design and Science-Design;  basically, Diagram 3b combines ideas from 2a+3a, and adds two Design Cycles (to "revise Option?") in which critical Evaluation of Options can stimulate-and-guide creative Generation of Options, and a Science Cycle (to "revise Model?");

and in Diagram 3b, repeat the questions about "use" from 2a, but now "use" appears in three new places where you "use" Evaluations to guide Generation, thus completing a cycle of Evaluation-then-Generation in a Science Cycle or Design Cycle;  {also, some symbolism in text colors?}

{optimizing the benefits of eclectic instruction by combining discovery-plus-explanation}  {semi-models and models}


Diagram 2b shows how we learn from experience in Cycles of PLAN (using Mental Ideation in Cycles of GENERATE-and-EVALUATE) and MONITOR (with Physical Testing), similar to the long-term phases in other models-for-process, especially metacognitive Self-Regulated Learning with Strategies for Thinking.


Learning by Discovery and from Explanations:  First, students can reflect on their own experiences with solving problems, asking “what part of my problem-solving process is in each part of the diagram?”  Then, they (or you) can click areas in this Diagram 3b` and perhaps learn more by reading my explanation of what's happening in each area, during 5 Stages in a Progression for Learning.


And you can think about creative ways to teach principles of problem-solving inquiry by using the simplicity and symmetry of Design Process.




We'll begin with questions that can help students learn (by discovery and/or from explanations) essential Principles for Using Experiments.  Questions for Teachers (Part 2) describes how, during a process of problem solving, we USE Experiments in three ways:

    1. for Experiment → Information,  we USE an Experiment to Make Experimental Information (by Making Predictions, or Making Observations);
    2. for Information → Evaluation,  we USE this Experimental Information to Do Experiment-Based Evaluation (by Doing a Reality Check, or Doing a Quality Check);
    3. for Evaluation → Generation,  we USE this Experiment-Based Evaluation (of an old Option) to Stimulate-and-Guide Generation (of a new Option).

Questions about #2 (for Information → Evaluation) are above in The Science Question (for a Reality Check) and The Engineering Question (for two kinds of Quality Checks).  Questions about #1 and #3 are below.  Then we'll look at principles for Designing Experiments and, briefly, for Coordinating Your Process of problem-solving Design Thinking and Evaluating Your Process so you can Improve Your Process.

You can ask students a variety of thought-stimulating questions about how we USE Experiments...


1. for Experiment → Information.   How do you USE an Experiment (by doing it physically or mentally) to make Experimental Information?  A variety of students' goal-directed actions (trying to solve a problem) can be the basis for a teacher's goal-directed questions (trying to help students improve their performing and/or learning).

Old Experimental Information:  You can find Experimental Information (that is old) by remembering it in your personal memory or locating it in our collective memory.

New Experimental Information:  You can Make Experimental Information (that is new) in two ways, to get Observations and Predictions:

You can DO an Experiment physically (by actualizing) and make Observations.  How?  Basically, by using human senses, or using measuring instruments.  For most experiments, ask students “What did you see?”  For some experiments, students can use other senses, so ask “what did you hear?” or “what did you smell? ...or feel?” and so on.  Other experiments give you opportunities to ask about measuring instruments, like a thermometer, watch, ruler, or beaker.  Early in your experimenting, to establish the meaning of observations (or data) and the wide range of ways to make Observations, occasionally you can say “that is an Observation.”

You also can DO an Experiment mentally (by imagining) and make Predictions.  How?  Initially, students probably will simply assume “what happened before, in similar situations, will happen again.”  Before or after they make observations, ask “when you compare the Experimental Systems (previous and current), what is similar? what is different?”  For this comparison, you can describe the Experimental System (E-System) as an Option in a Situation.  And of course you can ask “what is the Option? the Situation?  do you think Option-in-Situation is a useful way to think about the E-System?“   troubleshooting:  If in a Reality Check there is a poor match between their Predictions and Observations, ask “why?  were the differences-between-systems more than you thought?  or did you recognize the differences, but you under-estimated the difference in the results this would cause in the current Observations?”  or, in a different approach, “do you have any reasons to think the Observations were wrong?”   /   Later, you can ask students to construct (mentally and in other ways) a model of the E-System.  It could be a composition-and-operation model, or another kind, perhaps inspired by thinking about the Option and Situation.   troubleshooting:  If in a Reality Check the match is not close, as with "assuming..." you can ask questions (general or specific) about “what went wrong?” and “what part(s) of a Model could be revised, in an effort to get a better match?”, probably by using a critical-and-creative strategy of critical Evaluation → creative Generation.


2. for Information → Evaluation.   How do you USE Experimental Information to do Experiment-Based Evaluation?

Basically, these are The Questions (about The Essence of Science Process or Engineering Process) that you can ask about using Experimental Information to do a Reality Check (by comparing Predictions with Observations) or Quality Check (by comparing Predictions with Goals, or comparing Observations with Goals).


3. for Evaluation → Generation.   How do you USE Experiment-Based Evaluation to stimulate-and-guide Generation of a New Option by Revising an Old Option?

You can encourage students to do more of what they tend to do naturally, and have done before.  You begin during The Engineering Question(s) by asking “Would this Option be a good Solution?  What are its advantages and disadvantages? what are its pros & cons?”   Then, in a question nudging them forward, ask “can you think of ways to revise this Option, to improve one of its disadvantages?” and then “...to improve another disadvantage?”   Then “how do you determine whether your revised Option will be improved?” {it's because they are making Predictions in a Mental Experiment involving the New Option}   In this way you guide them into recognizing that "in critical-and-creative Guided Generation they are doing many Mental Experiments, each time ‘trying out’ a different Solution-Option (old or new) with the goal of finding a Product whose Predicted Properties (or Observed Properties, if known) match their desired Goal-Properties," using a strategy of Retroductive Generation they can use to Generate new Options (for Engineering) and new Models (for Science) and new Experiments (for both).




Information Gaps:  The essential strategy for Experimental Design is searching for gaps in information-knowledge, and filling these gaps.  A basic question for students — asking “what Information (Predictions or Observations) would be useful?” — can be modified in a variety of ways, with adjustments customized for each activity.

Options operating in Situations:  If we view an Experimental System as an Option operating in a Situation, students can imagine different Options-in-Situations and ask “if we do this, what kinds of things might happen, what would we Observe, and what could we learn?  could this new Experimental Information (from Predictions or Observations) be useful for the project? or at least interesting?”  Starter-Questions — asking “How could you change the Situation, to get useful Information?” or “How could you change the Option?” — can be systematized in two strategies:  keep the Option the same, and vary the Situation;  or keep the Situation the same, and vary the Option.     {more - Principles for Experimental Design, briefly and more deeply



As discussed earlier, a problem-solving Inquiry Activity begins when students Learn More so they can Define their Problem — by Defining their Objective (what they want to “make better”) and their Goals (for a satisfactory Problem-Solution), and try to Solve the Problem by Generating Options (for a Solution) and Evaluating Options.     {Defining and Solving}



Ask students “how are you deciding what to do next?” to stimulate reflections about how they are coordinating their process of design.  Or when they are working in a group, occasionally ask “how do you decide who does what, how, when? (now and later)” as part of reflection-grounded classroom discussions about cooperative collaboration.   /   For decisions about using time wisely, asking “What is the best use of my time right now?”



Forming Good Habits:  After students “know” principles-for-process, ask “how did you use these principles during this inquiry activity?” and “how well did you use them?” and “how could you do it better the next time?” to help them use quality control to improve the consistent quality of their problem-solving process, to improve their performance (now) and/or learning (for later).  Could it be helpful if you make-and-use a checklist of the problem-solving actions you've found to be useful?     { Strategies for Thinking and Learning from Experience by using Metacognitive Reflection}




Questions for Teachers — Part 2

My questions in Part 1 "are intended to stimulate thinking by teachers," to help you define educational GOALS for ideas & skills, and then design goal-directed QUESTIONS for students.


Questions — first for Teachers, then for Students:

First you ask questions for yourself, to stimulate your own thinking about educational GOALS for what you want students to learn, for ideas & skills that include Principles for Problem-Solving Process.*

While you're thinking about what to teach, you also will be thinking about how to teach, about Activities and related Mini-Activities.  During your Goal-Directed Designing of Instruction you will be designing Mini-Activities that include "asking QUESTIONS that direct a student's attention to ‘what can be learned’ from an experience" so they can "learn more from their experiences."  You will be thinking about the kinds of questions you can ask students, to stimulate their goal-directed metacognitive reflections (about what they are doing, how, and why), to help them improve their ideas & skills.


* This page will describe the Problem-Solving Principles in my coherently organized model of Design-Thinking Process.  But most of the questions also can be asked for semi-model such as NGSS.



Experiments — done Mentally and Physically

In Part 1 of Questions for Teachers, three key questions are "How do you make an observation?" and "How do you make a prediction?" and "What is an experiment?"

Making Observations & Making Predictions during Experiments:  By asking questions, you can help students discover...

    • process-principles for making Observations (during the actualizing of a Physical Experiment) by using human senses and/or technological measuring-instruments;  and then...*
    • process-principles for making Predictions (during the imagining of a Mental Experiment) by assuming “what happened before, in similar situations, will happen again” and/or by constructing-and-using a Model of the Experimental System.     { By asking questions, and in other ways, you can show students the benefits of using both methods of predicting, not just the “assuming it will happen again” that they initially tend to use. }
    * With this sequence — first Observations, then Predictions — students begin with concrete physical experiences in which they Make Observations, before they use their imaginations to Make Predictions.  But during their Physical Experimenting, students will naturally “imagine what will happen” with Mental Experimenting in which they Make Predictions.  These experiences-of-imagining will prepare them for later, when you ask "How do you make a prediction?" to help them discover Principles for Making Predictions.
Symmetry - Diagram 2a     • In an educationally useful minimally restrictive broad definition, an Experiment is "any situation that lets you make Predictions and/or make Observations."   /   With more detail, an Experiment is "any situation that provides an opportunity to get Experimental Information by making Predictions (in a Mental Experiment) or making Observations (in a Physical Experiment), so an Experimental System is any [Mentally imagined] Prediction-Situation or [Physically actualized] Observation-Situation."     { The color-symbolized symmetry with parallels between mental experimenting & physical experimenting is seen in the diagram (compare the analogous left side & right side), and is described in the Home-Page and Summaries-Page. }


Experiments — in Problem-Solving Process

I also asked, in Part 1, "How do these action-skills interact during an overall process of science?  ...during an overall process of engineering?"  And more specifically — in questions about Process Questions for Experiments that are important because experiments play a central role in a process of problem solving, with Science or Engineering — "How do we Design Experiments, and Do Experiments, and Use Experiments?"   The central role of Experiments (as a focus for mental & physical actions when we Design-Do-USE Experiments) is described — for both kinds of design — above and below, and in other pages, briefly and with detail.

How do you Design-Do-Use-Use-Use Experiments?   During a process of solving problems (to "make it better") you Design Experiments so you can Do Experiments (mentally by imagining and/or physically by actualizing) and Use Experiments to generate Experimental Information (mental Predictions and/or physical Observations), so you then can Use Experimental Information in comparisons that are Reality Checks (the essence of Science Process in Science-Design) and/or Quality Checks (the essence of Engineering Process in General Design).  Then in a typical next step,...

How do you use a Reality Check or Quality Check?   As explained in Stage 3 (and shown in Diagram 3b), during a process of Science-Design you do a Cycle of Science when a Reality Check stimulates you to ask “should I revise the Explanatory Model that I used to make Predictions, trying to achieve a better match with Observations?”  Similarly, during a process of General Design you do a Cycle of Design when a Quality Check (either Predictions-Based or Observations-Based) stimulates you to ask “should I revise this Option, to achieve a better match with my Goals?”  In each kind of Cycle, your Evaluation (done by using Experimental Information) stimulates you to ask “should I revise?” and – if you say “yes” – in creative-and-critical Guided Generation your creative Generation is stimulated-and-guided by your critical Evaluation, using Retroductive Reasoning.

Use-Use-Use in three Experiment-Based Actions:  As outlined above, and described with more detail if you click the links,

    first you can Do/Use an Experiment to make Experimental Information (to make Experimental Predictions, or make Experimental Observations, or both),
    then you can Use this Experimental Information in a comparison (to do a Reality Check, or do a Quality Check) that is an Experiment-Based Evaluation of an Option (for an Explanatory Model in Science-Design, or a Problem-Solution in General Design),
    and then you can Use this Experiment-Based Evaluation to ask “should I revise the Option?” which often stimulates-and-guides your creative Generation of another Option.


These 3 Ways to Use Experiments are explored with more detail later, after we look at Principles for Process.


Principles for Process — Flexibly Improvised Using of Experiments for Option-Evaluation and Option-Generation:  Typically these three experiment-based actions — Use Experiment (to Make Information), Use this Information (for Option-Evaluation), and Use this Evaluation (for Option-Generation) — are combined in flexibly improvised functional sequences with branching options.*  The functional purpose of these coordinated action-sequences is to pursue your goal of solving the problem by Evaluating an Option and maybe Generating another Option, in a Cycle of Science or Cycle of Design.     {During a process of problem solving, our functional improvising is analogous to the flexible goal-directed actions of a hockey player, but is not – due to what Design Process IS NOT – the rigid choreography of a figure skater.}

Principles for Process — Mental Experiments and Physical Experiments:  The analogous parallels between mental experimenting & physical experimenting are described above and in the Home-Page and Summaries-Page.


3 Ways to Use Experiments — Part 2

As explained in Part 1, during a problem-solving process you USE Experiments in three ways:

    1. for Experiment → Information,  you USE an Experiment to make Experimental Information.
    2. for Information → Evaluation,  you USE Experimental Information to do Experiment-Based Evaluation.
    3. for Evaluation → Generation,  you USE Experiment-Based critical Evaluation (of an old Option) to stimulate-and-guide creative Generation (of a new Option).

This diagram shows a flow, with sequential connections between 1-and-2, then 2-and-3:  Experimental Information is produced in #1 and used in #2, then Experiment-Based Evaluation is produced in #2 and used in #3.

3 Ways to Use Experiments


Below, you can see — when you move your mouse over the "1 2 3 3" added to Diagram 3b (examined in Stage 3 of a 5-stage progression for learning) — four isolation diagrams that show only the problem-solving actions for USE #1 (to Make Information), or USE #2 (to Do Evaluation), or USE #3 (to Guide Generation).

Isolation Diagrams - for Ways to Use Experiments


In the diagram below, the left side shows "3 Ways to USE Experiments" in a simplified summary of the actions in Diagram 3b above.  And — if we distinguish between 2 kinds of Information (made mentally & physically) and two kinds of Evaluation (with Reality Checks & Quality Checks) — there are "8 Ways to USE Experiments" when you:  1. Make Information (by Making Predictions, or Making Observations), then   2. Do Evaluation (by Doing a Predictions-Based Quality Check, or Doing a Reality Check, or Doing an Observations-Based Quality Check), and then   3. Do Generation that (when you ask "revise...?") is Guided by a Predictions-Based Quality Check, or Guided by a Reality Check, or Guided by an Observations-Based Quality Check.

Many Ways (3 or 8) to USE EXPERIMENTS



Designing Instruction — Part 2

In a Goal-Directed Designing of Instruction you:

    define GOALS for desired outcomes, for the ideas & skills you want students to learn;
    design INSTRUCTION with Learning Activities that will provide opportunities for experience with these ideas & skills, and (typically in mini-Activities with guiding by a teacher)* will help students learn more from their experiences.

Inquiry Activities:  In this page our main goal is to improve problem-solving abilities, so the Learning Activities we'll examine are Inquiry Activities that let students "make things better" by solving problems with two kinds of design:

    with Science-Design (i.e. Science) in a Science-Inquiry Activity, students try to “make their understanding better” by asking questions and seeking answers;
    with General Design (which includes Engineering) in a Design-Inquiry Activity, students try to “make some other aspect(s) of life better” by defining problems and seeking solutions.
Due to overlaps — when with crossover actions a scientist sometimes does engineering, and an engineer sometimes does science — students often will combine both kinds of inquiry in an activity.  These overlaps let us build educational bridges (to promote transfers-of-learning and transitions-of-attitudes) between science-inquiry & design-inquiry and between school-life & everyday life.

What is inquiry?  Opportunities for inquiry occur whenever a gap in knowledge — in conceptual knowledge (so students don't understand) or procedural knowledge (so they don't know what to do, or how) — stimulates action (mental and/or physical) and students are allowed to struggle, and their experiences help them learn.  To "help students learn more from their experiences" you can design instruction that includes...


* Mini-Activities within Learning Activities:  During any Learning Activity (whether it's old or new), your interactions with students will produce mini-Activities that are opportunities for thinking and learning.  You can ask questions and respond to questions, give clues (to adjust the level of difficulty), provide encouragement & formative feedback, and ask reflection questions that direct attention to “what can be learned” from an experience, that stimulate metacognitive guided reflection.*  During this guided reflection, students ask “what did I (or we) do and how, and why” and “what were the results?”  These responses can move students into a more-aware mode, converting a “hands on” activity into a “hands on, minds on” activity that is more effective for learning.  Your questions can be broad (to encourage open-ended responses) or narrow (to focus on specific thoughts/actions).  A goal-directed reflection question is designed to achieve educational goals, to help students learn more from their experiences.   Of course, you also can encourage students to do independent unguided reflection on their own, when they use metacognitive self-reminding and self-guided awareness.

* Timings:  reflection questions can occur before or after an activity, or in a low-action interlude during the activity.


Strategies for Mini-Activities:  The main objectives of skillful guiding — by wisely choosing the types, amounts, and timings of guidance during your Mini-Activities — are to help students improve their overall performing + learning + enjoying, to improve their performing (now) and learning (for later) and enjoying (now and later).  You want your formative feedback to help students form themselves into a better person.  The effective designing of an Activity (and its Mini-Activities) includes a solid foundation of preparation (before the Activity) plus plans for improvised adjustments (during the Activity)* when you carefully observe your students so you can develop an empathetic understanding of their thinking & feeling.  You will be thinking about them (re: their Strategies for Performing/Learning) and you (re: your Strategies for Teaching).   /   Of course, your improvising will be based on what you learn during an activity, and what you have learned from past activities, because you learn from all experience (past & current) so you can adjust and “do it better.”     {more: a deeper examination of these ideas - with links}


Designing Activities:  You can find old activities and invent new activities.  For example, old activities can include those designed for POE (Predict-Observe-Explain) with science, or designed by Engineering is Elementary or — for Evaluative Thinking in both kinds of design, in General Design and Science-Design — by CER (Claim-Evidence-Reasoning).


Should we use Models-for-Process?  Some educators want to use models-for-process (like Design Process) with short-term sequences or long-term-phases or both.  Other educators prefer a semi-model (like the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS) or even no model.     {more - No Model, Semi-Model, and/or Model}

What is Design Process?  It's "a semi-model — a system of functionally related modes of action (mental and/or physical) — that becomes an overall model of Design Process when the modes are logically organized in educationally productive ways to show the coherent integration of productive actions (in these modes) to form a productive process.  You can see how the 10 modes of problem-solving actions are organized into a model of problem-solving process — actually it's a family of related models you can explore in a 5-stage progression for learning — in diagrams that show relationships between models and modes`."


Should we use a variety of Instruction Methods?  As explained in Optimizing the Benefits of Eclectic Instruction, I think that...

    We should try to design eclectic instruction by combining the best features of each approach in a blend that produces an optimal overall result — a greatest good for the greatest number — in helping students achieve worthy educational goals.  Most educators agree that eclectic instruction usually works best, especially in the long run, although we sometimes disagree about the details of how to define goals (for an "optimal overall result") or how to achieve goals when we ask “what is the best blend of approaches?”

For example, we should combine learning by discovery — by "using a process-of-inquiry to teach principles-for-inquiry" as in this page — with learning from explanations.  Why?  Because a combination of Discovery + Explanation works better than either pure-Discovery or pure-Explanation by itself.  One activity that promotes both kinds of learning is Verbal-Visual Explorations of Process-Diagrams.

One way to design eclectic instruction is by creatively combining the structures (for instruction) and strategies (for thinking) of Design Process and other models-for-process.


Quoting from two parts of the home-page,

Learning by Discovery:  Students can use inquiry Process to discover inquiry Principles.  How?  In a 4th Level of Learning-from-Inquiry (by combining experience + reflection + principles)* a teacher can guide students to help them use a process-of-inquiry to DISCOVER principles-of-inquiry.   /   A typical sequence begins with students getting experiences by doing design, followed by reflections-on-experience that help them discover principles of Design Process, with a teacher sometimes guiding students while they experience and reflect and discover.     {you can click areas of this diagram to learn by discovery and with explanations}  .....

HOW should we teach Design Process?   Teachers develop Strategies for Teaching (= Coaching?) that can include helping students use a process of inquiry to discover principles of inquiry-process, in a sequence of activities — beginning with students' personal experiences of doing design, followed by reflections-on-experience that help them discover principles of Design Process — with a teacher guiding students while they experience and reflect and discover.

WHY – Experience plus Principles:  When we ask “why teach Design Process?” an important sub-question is whether a well-designed combination of experience plus principles (along with reflection) will be more educationally effective than experience by itself, to help students improve their skills in creative-and-critical productive thinking and their ability to combine thinking skills into a thinking process for solving problems.




personal comments:  For California STEM Symposium in 2016,* the conference theme — Designing our Future — is an example of how we use problem-solving Design Thinking for "almost everything we do in life," including design to improve education.  This theme is personally relevant because my website is Using Design-Thinking Process for Problem Solving and Education (including our plans for the future), and in Twitter I'm @DTprocess (where DT means DesignThinking) and I participate in a community of educators (#DTk12chat - schedule) who enthusiastically ask “How Might We?” when we're designing creative ways to improve K12 Education by creative collaboration, especially by using DesignThinking.

Craig Rusbult <crusbult@wisc.edu>  –  my life on a road less traveled 


* I also led Discussion Sessions for the Stem Symposium the previous two years:

in 2014, Build Bridges between Engineering and Science to Improve NGSS Practices;

in 2015, Improve Diversity and Equity with Transfer-Bridges [and Transition-Bridges] for Problem Solving.




If you want to discuss any of these ideas,
you can contact me, <crusbult@wisc.edu> ;
Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. - my life on a road less traveled
Page-URL is https://educationforproblemsolving.net/design-thinking/mc-an.htm
Copyright © 1978-2019 by Craig Rusbult.  All Rights Reserved.


This page is designed to be in the right frame, so put it there.


OPTIONS:  Here are three other useful links,
Sitemap (in LEFT frame)  -  Home (in RIGHT frame)  -
Open this Frame in a New Full-Width Window (I.O.U. - Until this link is
available, Right-Click frame and choose "Open Frame in New Window  -
and useful information is in Tips for Using This Website.