Library of Congress

TPS Quarterly

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This issue explores how teachers can use primary sources to guide students through the inquiry process and create an active learning environment.

Inquiry is inherent to teaching with primary sources. These raw materials of history—original documents and objects which were created at the time under study—compel students to draw on their prior knowledge, personal experiences and critical thinking skills to construct meaning. Teachers play an essential role in primary source-based inquiry learning by carefully selecting primary sources, encouraging and sustaining curiosity with probing questions, and modeling analysis and reflective practice.

Connecting inquiry to learning is certainly not a new instructional strategy. Countless educators, including Socrates and John Dewey, have advocated inquiry-based learning in one form or another. An iterative, often non-linear process, inquiry learning is reflective throughout and could be deconstructed into several phases. To successfully support students through the inquiry process, a teacher must first understand its various phases, both in theory and practice. In this issue’s feature article, former American Association of School Librarians (AASL) president Barbara Stripling explores the inquiry phases (wonder, connect, investigate, construct, express, and reflect) and describes how teachers can use primary sources to facilitate inquiry learning.