Inquiry yourself looking for old records or CDs

Inquiry and communication form the foundations of the learning process. This lesson will detail how these two processes lead to the passing on of information and the discovery of new knowledge.


Inquiry is just a more complex word for questioning. Humans start asking questions almost from the moment we can talk. If you have ever been around a toddler, you know this is true! Children seem to go through a stage during which ‘why?’ is their favorite word.

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Though it can be frustrating to parents, this questioning is how small children learn. It is how they become initiated into symbolic order, or the use of sounds and written symbols to convey meaning. Once a child learns to read, the entire world of knowledge and discovery starts to open up and this is an exciting process.


Most likely, you already have some notion of what communication means: the process of exchanging meaning between human individuals or groups. The act of communicating ranges from a simple face-to-face conversation to a large assembly of delegates in formal interaction. And that is only the realm of spoken communication. We also have print and electronic media that rely on written communication, as well as spoken and visual recorded communication like movies and audio recordings. Due to the benefits of the Internet and the ways it helps to foster a global community, the communication possibilities are virtually endless.

Impact on Learning

So what exactly do inquiry and communication have to do with learning? Think about what we said earlier about questions. Children learn by asking questions, and so do adults. Students of all ages are motivated to learn when they have questions and are curious about the answers.Of course, interest plays a part in the process of inquiry. If a student has an interest in a particular topic, then he or she will naturally ask additional questions and put greater effort into finding more information. For example, let’s say you go to a concert and have your first experience with folk music.

If it appeals to you, then you might find yourself looking for old records or CDs in thrift stores, and reading about classic folk singers like Woody Guthrie. Interest often leads to questions and the desire to know more.As a student, it is much more challenging, and also rewarding, to search for answers and information than to simply have it handed to you. The reason research leads to more solid learning outcomes is the concept of inquiry: wanting to find out something and looking for the information you want. You may be thinking that it isn’t always possible to find out about a certain topic on your own and you’re absolutely right. Here is where teachers and professors play a part in learning.

Others who already know a great deal about a topic are there to provide information and put you on the path to personal inquiry.For instance, you probably won’t find yourself going to Egypt to work on an archeological dig. But, if you are curious about the civilizations of ancient Egypt, you can make use of the work and research of others to satisfy your curiosity.

Communication & Learning

There are several ways that communication fits into the learning process. The most obvious is the asking of a question and the receiving of an answer. This sometimes happens informally, between parents and children, and between friends or coworkers.

Communication also plays a large role in the learning that takes place in a school setting. The teacher provides you with information, and then probably asks you to discuss it, or write about it, or take a quiz on it. Or perhaps several students have similar questions, and the teacher will change or add to the next lesson in order to align it with student interests. When you discuss a topic with classmates under the guidance of an instructor, a great deal of learning can take place.

The learning experience does not only involve on-site, immediate communication, but also the written communication authored by students, teachers, researchers, and scholars. The magic of written educational material is that it can be shared easily with others and preserved for students in the future. For example, today’s students read work written by philosophers in Ancient Greece, or William Shakespeare in Early Modern England. They can also view maps, diagrams, formulas, and recipes all preserved on paper for their learning experience.Finally, electronic communication has greatly enhanced the learning process in contemporary culture. Outside of the classroom and library, there is so much you can access online.

Through the use of online databases, you can find answers to your questions, research subjects of interest, and research other places and time periods, just by tapping some keys on your personal computer.

Lesson Summary

The concepts of inquiry and communication form the foundation for the learning process. Our earliest questions help us learn about symbolic order, or the use of sounds and written symbols to convey meaning. Interest leads to questioning, and questioning leads to answers and new knowledge.

By communicating in writing, information is shared and preserved. With the addition of electronic resources, almost everyone today has access to this cycle of inquiry, communication, and learning.


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