INQUIRY BASED LEARNING
Inquiry-based learning approaches allow students to deepen their learning around themes and questions they are interested in and connected to. Inquiry is moving beyond the 'research project' and creating a culture of thinking and curiosity. There are many different pedagogical approaches that will enable educators to co-create this culture with their students. Find detailed descriptions of these and resources to support your learning below.
GALLERY: INQUIRY IN THE CENTRAL OKANAGAN
HOW TO CREATE A CULTURE OF INQUIRY
All of the boxes below discuss different pedagogies that will support you in creating
a culture of inquiry. Click the image in each box for more information.
Inquiry is a culture that you will co-create with your students. There is no recipe and no set procedure for inquiry. It is not about finding one answer, but is about exploring many answers.
When you create a culture of inquiry, the process of learning is valued over the products that are created, the learning & thinking are made visible to all, and the questions are valued over the answers.
"Having a question that isn't answered right away gives you space where you can find other questions. It gives you space to learn and think and have new wonders." ~Grade 5 student, MJE
Thinking routines are short, easy-to-learn strategies that extend and deepen students' thinking and become part of the fabric of everyday classroom life.
They can be used regularly, across a variety of content and grade levels, and help students develop ways of thinking about their own thinking.
When a student uses a Thinking Routine to make his/her thinking visible, all students benefit from the shared thinking as collective knowledge is built.
Find Opal School's Thinking Tools here.
Find some ILT Strategy Stickers here.
When learning is anchored in exploring questions, educators:
Have a strong image of the learner & believe in their ability (even at a young age) to explore complex questions.
Set intentions for the learning and determine overarching themes & questions
See themselves as learners, are vulnerable and curious, and model being curious.
Allow their students' explorations within overarching questions to drive the learning.
"They don't stop the learning. They answer questions with questions." ~Alanna, CMS Teacher
Sometimes when we choose overarching themes or questions to guide the learning, it helps us to integrate the learning and connect to the curriculum.
These guiding questions still leave a lot of room for students to explore their own questions throughout the learning.
There are many places where you can begin as you determine which guiding questions you might want to anchor the learning to as you explore with your students.
You can start with a topic or theme that your students are already interested in, with a rich and complex question, with current events, and with a cool idea.To learn more, click here.
Letters of Intent are letters that educators can write at the beginning of the year. We write these letters to clarify for ourselves, and others, what our
beliefs about learning and teaching are.
Writing our intentions also helps us to think about, and make visible, the big and small questions that we want to explore with our students throughout the year as we learn about things that our students care about.
This allows us to think about the learning without predetermining the pathways that will guide our explorations.
Click here to see samples created with educators across our district.
To create rich, inquiry learning environments, we have to trust our students. When educators believe that students are capable, competent, resourceful, intelligent, imaginative, creative, full of curiosity, and interested in and capable of exploring complex and abstract ideas, they have high expectations of what students can do. Students can contemplate questions about big, complex ideas. These explorations allow students to continue to see connections and make meaning of the world, and their role in it.
"Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the [learner] that directs you as you begin to relate to [each learner]. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways." ~Loris Malaguzzi
When we document, we curate valuable information that will guide next steps in learning. Documentation allows us to share the holistic and complex story of learning; however, the ultimate purpose is to AMPLIFY the learning of both teachers and students. When students' words, thoughts, and questions are made visible, they feel heard, valued, and in charge of their own learning. When students are asked to discuss and reflect on documentation that has been collected, they have the opportunity to deepen their learning and the learning of others. See samples here.
When we offer our students (and ourselves) the opportunity to engage in other modes of thikning with thinking materials, the materials can become active participants that help students to generate new insights about their thinking. See examples of materials here.
With these visual and symbolic languages available to them, learners can deepen and strengthen their thinking about complex questions and ideas. These thinking tools are particularly helpful in creating a culture of inquiry (student thinking samples).
"If it had to be summed up in one sentence, knowledge building could be described as 'giving students collective responsibility for idea improvment.'"
Throughout the inquiry process it is important to continue to have students build their collective knowledge by sharing their thinking, connecting to the thinking of others, building on it, questioning it, and even learning to disagree respectfully with others' theories. Click here to learn more about how to create a knowledge building culture.
Ron Ritchhart also shows us that to create a culture of thinking, we need to consider 8 cultural forces: time, opportunities, language, expectations, routines, environment, interactions, and modeling.
Ron states that, "A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard and challenging mental work.”
Learn more by reading Ritchhart's book, 'Creating Cultures of Thinking.'
Also, go to this website from
Thinking Pathwayz, see this poster,
In order to create learning environments that nurture curiosity, it is important to consider both the physical environment and the emotional environment. To do this, we can: design flexible learning spaces to facilitate collaboration and collective knowledge building, make the thinking and learning visible, and create environments with curious things.
See 'A Space That Nurtures Curiosity and Wonder.' (Kath Murdoch)
We also need to create strong relationships with our students and nurture connections between them. When everyone feels like they belong, and that what they think matters, it will feel safer to take risks and share.
When learning through inquiry, if you are truly following your students' curiosities and letting them guide the learning, it is impossible to come to class with a fully fleshed out plan. Inquiry requires us to be flexible and adaptable with our plans. To 'un' plan, it makes sense to begin by searching for provocations that we think will excite curiousity.
In essence, we are 'throwing our students a ball,' and we have to be prepared for whatever ball they throw back to us. They might want to take the learning in a direction that is different from where we imagined it might go, and we need to be prepared for that. As we inquiry together, we can be searching for relationships between the inquiries and the curriculum so we can make connections between the two.
To truly empower our learners to have ownership over their own learning, they will need to be able to reflect on where they are with their learning, set goals for the next steps in their learning, and capture and select evidence to show how they are meeting those goals. Educators across our district are creating learning maps based on the curricular competencies to allow students to set learning goals, reflect and collect evidence of their growth.
What will you provoke your students to think and wonder about?
Let your students' voices guide you as you determine how to continue to provoke their thinking throughout the inquiry cycle!
It is important to provoke your students' thinking in a variety of ways before you ask them what they are most curious about. Taking time to build curiosity is important. Don't rush this stage of inquiry - it is a mistake to jump into the next phase too quickly.