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A Concise Glossary of Inquiry Related Terms

The following terms are defined as they relate to teaching with inquiry. Remembering the terminology is not as important as understanding the concepts they represent.

Active Thinking  Thinking that requires personal involvement to accomplish a mental task.
Convergent Thinking The process of narrowing one’s thoughts to a single, best, or correct response.
Closed-ended Questions Questions that have specific, predetermined answers; usually calling for remembered factual information, and evaluated on the basis of “right or wrong” (classroom example – “true or false” questions).
Creativity A thought process that involves generating, developing, or organizing ideas which are new to the person thinking them.
Describing Questions  “Open-ended” questions that call for any response related to one’s sensory or emotional observations.
Divergent Thinking  The process of expanding one’s thoughts to generate as many responses or solutions as possible before deciding.
Elaboration  A divergent thinking process calling upon one’s capacity to add detail or additional layers of meaning to an idea or thing.
Evaluating Questions “Open-ended” questions that call for pupils to reference their thoughts or ideas to the problem or thing being examined.
Flexibility  A divergent thinking process calling upon one’s capacity to think of a wide variety of responses.
Fluency  A divergent thinking process calling upon one’s capacity to generate a great quantity of responses.
Inquiry Teaching  The process of helping pupils learn by asking questions that prompt discovery, the acquisition of information, and understanding; also known as the “Socratic method of teaching.”
Observing  Careful inspection through increased sensory involvement.
Open-ended Questions  Questions having many possible answers, and that accommodate an individual’s point-of-view; often requires generating ideas, and must be evaluated subjectively based upon justification used (classroom example – essay questions that require formulating, and expounding upon, a premise, concept, or hypothesis).
Originality  A divergent thinking process calling upon one’s capacity to generate highly individualized, or unique, responses.
Passive Thinking  Receiving or recalling the information or ideas provided by others without questioning or evaluating them.
Point-of-View  One’s predisposed outlook or way of thinking about something based on physical, personal, cultural, and/or temporal variables.
Testing Questions  “Open-ended” questions that challenge pupils to make hypotheses or predictions based upon their ideas, thoughts, or observations.

“A Concise Glossary of Inquiry Related Terms” The Docent Educator 1.3 (Spring 1992): 13.

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