Inquiry-Based Teaching

The way we teach at Urban Academy is called the "inquiry method," which means different things to different people.  Here's what it means to us: Inquiry teaching requires the teacher to frame questions in a way which challenges students to examine often conflicting evidence, draw conclusions and support these conclusions in thoughtful discussions with others who, using the same evidence base, reach divergent conclusions.

Here's an example: In a traditional high school American history class, a teacher might ask students to write a report on how Christopher Columbus "discovered" America.  Students would be expected to write about Columbus's negotiations with Queen Isabella of Spain, describe the voyages of the NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, and maybe discuss the conflicts Columbus had with the native peoples he encountered.  This is a typical "developmental" lesson.  In an inquiry lesson you'd find at Urban, students might be asked to argue about how we should remember Columbus today.  Some students might argue that he was a brave man who set out on a dangerous trip.  Others might say he was a racist conqueror who enslaved and killed off a native population.  Still others might argue a third, or fourth, or fifth position.  There is no "right" answer, and students at Urban are not expected to find one.  Instead, they are expected to take a position and argue it using evidence.

A goal of inquiry-based learning is to develop the students' skills of critical analysis, to become life-long learners able to confront any topic, research it, and have confidence in their ability to defend what, in some cases, may be minority opinions.

The ultimate goal is to produce independent, thinking, and articulate citizens.