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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Professor's book discusses inquiry-learning method


Teresa Coffman, associate professor of education at the University of Mary Washington Stafford Graduate campus, published the textbook, “Using Inquiry in the Classroom: Developing Creative Thinkers and Information Literate Students,” on inquiry-based learning in the classroom. The book is a culmination of Coffman’s teaching style and her passion for writing.

“I feel as though I have a message, and so I’d like to share that,” said Coffman.

In over eight years of working at UMW, Coffman has implemented a variety of teaching styles to reach her students, including inquiry-based learning.

“It’s about inquiry, and I really want teachers thinking about how to incorporate inquiry into their instruction, into their pedagogy, so that students are thinking more about the content,” said Coffman. “Inquiry learning started out as the scientific method, so it started out in science.”

While this method may seem foreign to some academics, the inquiry-based method, the process of asking questions and testing, is not new. Coffman points out that typically the professor stands and lectures, but that this format is primarily student-centered.

“It’s all about critical thinking and taking that critical thinking to a higher level – doing something with the message,” said Coffman about the inquiry-based method.

To implement the inquiry-based method, as outlined in her book, Coffman suggested that teachers must ask questions of students to probe what they already know, to help them become more comfortable and attached to the classroom content.

“It gets [students] more involved, and more than just reading the textbook,” said Coffman.

While the book is geared primarily toward teachers with a K-12 audience that plan to use web tools, almost any educator can implement the techniques presented.

Much of the UMW faculty, staff and student body have been supportive toward Coffman, offering her congratulations, such as the feedback on the Eagle Eye article released on Coffman’s book publication. Coffman plans to continue to write and develop teaching methods for publication.

“Dr. Coffman has provided educators with an excellent text that brings 21st century skills into practical application, said Suzanne Houff, UMW education professor and a colleague of Coffman’s. “She is a credit to the College of Education.”