One important skill in the social sciences is independent inquiry or research. On a general level, the aim with independent inquiry is for students to frame and conduct their own investigation into an issue of significance, demonstrating a number of skills, including questioning, data-gathering, interpretation, analysis, hypothesis-formation, evaluation, justification and reflection. In history, the curriculum specifically requires that students develop particular skills through historical inquiry. Such skills focus on the study of primary and secondary sources of evidence, and require students to comprehend, analyse, interpret and evaluate sources of evidence, with the end result being “a well-supported response to the question posed”.
Teachers need to be aware of developmental progressions for inquiry skills so that they can scaffold the work for students as they gradually develop their skills. The aim, of course, is to be able to slowly peel away the scaffolding so that eventually students can frame and conduct their own independent inquiry. Teachers of junior secondary (years 7-10) can employ a number of developmentally-appropriate scaffolding strategies to promote independent inquiry. A range of strategies will be discussed in the following blog posts.