Inquiry Based Instruction
Three Successful Models for Historical Thinking as Critical Thinking
Inquiry emphasizes learning as an active process that challenges students to integrate new knowledge with prior experience and to reflect critically about their own thinking. Inquiry-based learning is recursive–that is, its steps should be revisited multiple times, deepening students’ understanding with each repetition. Inquiry-based learning is central to the Common Core State Standards.
Inquiry is particularly suited to study of primary sources in history, since documents and artifacts can only be interpreted when we think about when, why, and by whom they were created. Approaching the study of the past through primary sources challenges students to pose complex questions about motivation, power, and perspective.
Different educators’ models of inquiry take somewhat different forms, though all share the same core characteristics. We summarize three different models here. Watch for each to appear as a “Featured Source” on our Library of Congress: Teaching with Primary Sources Program page.
Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tools – The Library of Congress provides a practical, easy-to-use set of primary source analysis worksheets with questions geared to nine different types of sources, such as, “Maps,” Political Cartoons,” and “Sound Recordings.” Each offers questions pertinent to the type of source–a helpful starting point for teachers. At Emerging America, we insist that teachers and students always include questions about who made the item, when, why, etc. (i.e. “sourcing”.) We also insist on “Further Investigation” questions to place the item in context and to compare it to related sources.
Download the worksheets and instructions at Teacher’s Guides and Analysis Tool. See an example of analysis following this model at our Featured Source page.
Historical Thinking Matters – Sam Wineberg, Co-Director of School of Education at Stanford University, interviewed and observed historians to see how they think about and do what they do. Based on that work, he developed an easily comprehensible, practical, yet powerful four-step model of primary source analysis–sourcing, close reading, contextualization, and corroboration. Should should learn to apply the four steps automatically every time they see a new primary source.
Find a thorough explanation of the model, with exemplary lessons keyed to video clips of scholars demonstrating the four steps at Historical Thinking Matters. Wineberg’s book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (2001) is an incisive and illuminating read.
Barbara Stripling – The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program has embraced the theoretical model of inquiry-based learning developed by Barbara Stripling, Director of Library Services for the New York City School Library System. In Stripling’s comprehensive model, six phases–wonder, connect, investigate, construct, express, and reflect–work together to encourage students to move beyond their own preconceptions and to consider multiple viewpoints and broader contexts for the materials they encounter. For each of the phases, Stripling elaborates on: strategies for selecting primary sources, skills and strategies to teach, and cautions to ensure successful implementation.
Read Barbara Stripling’s Summer 2009 article in the Teaching with Primary Sources Quarterly, titled “Teaching Inquiry with Primary Sources”. (Find the article listed under “Inquiry Learning”.)
Historical Thinking: Featured Sources
Presents exemplary inquiry-based instructional tools, using primary sources from the Library of Congress.
Features several innovative approaches to inquiry-based instruction.