What is child-led enquiry?

What is child led enquiry?

By using the Terrific Scientific resources, you, as the teacher, have already taken your children on a journey through a landscape of varied scientific ideas. You’ve measured, recorded, assessed, argued, debated and investigated – you’ve created a group of budding scientists! They're ready to become independent, self-assessing and self-motivated investigators and now it’s time to allow the process of child-led enquiry to take over. It's all about ‘ownership’.

If an individual feels they want to own the data and results, they are far more likely to succeed in creating a successful investigation; it is up to you to help guide them towards that goal by applying different layers of support depending on ability and difficulty of the task.

In the Terrific Scientific investigations, the children have already been introduced to focused investigative approaches – they have a suitable level of understanding and skill with which to become more auto-didactic (self-teaching) and are ready to become independent investigative scientists.

Assessing the level of your pupils

Assessing the level of your pupils:

Before you set them free on the science resources and equipment, it is always useful to think about where your pupils are on their science journey and to what degree they are ready for real scientific independence.

**Suggested phases of child-led enquiry:

  1. Topic set by teacher. Question set by teacher. Tools and resources provided by teacher. Similar investigation modelled by teacher.

  2. Topic set by teacher. Question set by teacher. Tools and resources provided by teacher. Instructions given but not modelled.

  3. Topic set by teacher. Question set by teacher. Children choose own tools and resources from a selection with some unsuitable items included.

  4. Topic set by teacher. Children set own question – teacher facilitates. Children choose own tools and resources – teacher guides.

  5. Teacher provides simple picture or prompt idea. Children choose a suitable question and own tools and resources. Teacher as ‘helpful technician’.

Which phase is right for your children?

You know your children better than anyone else, but to help you identify which phase your children are at, thinking about the following questions will help you decide:

• Do the children fully understand the topic (what you are investigating) or prompt (the visual or written idea behind the science learning)?

• Do the children know how to use the equipment/resources? The more adept the pupils are with the equipment, the more successful they will be.

** • Are the children aware of what to record and how to record it?**

• Do the children understand the process/steps for success? Good planning equates to good investigating.

• Do the children know how to use their results to answer the initial question?

• And most importantly: Do the children actually want to find the answer?

Child-led enquiry can be a controversial idea:

Ask a multitude of teachers what they think it is and you will receive a multitude of answers. Ultimately, it is a process to allow your children to become more independent in their own learning, to discover on their own and to become ‘true scientists’. It is also an opportunity for you as the teacher to create lessons the children will remember.

Thumbs up for science

DON’T be scared if it all goes wrong.

Just go back a phase and try again!

A year in a child’s school life is many lessons.

**• 6 hours of teaching time a day.

**• 5 days a week.

**• 36 weeks a year.

**• Makes up roughly 1,000 hours.

That makes a one-hour lesson 0.1% of a year; you take as much time walking to assembly, so take a risk and create the next generation of scientific investigators.

Child led enquiry handout

Further support

For further support with child-led enquiry download this useful handout from the 2018 ASE conference workshop,

“Child-led enquiry: what does it look like in practice?”

It suggests frameworks for setting up successful child-led investigation and includes practical examples

Handout from the 2018 ASE conference workshop