What is inquiry? According to Wikipedia... 

Inquiry-based learning[1] describes approaches to learning that are based in the idea that when people are presented with a scenario or problem and assisted by afacilitator, they will identify and research issues and questions to develop their knowledge or solutions. Inquiry-based learning includes Problem-based learning, and can be used in small scale investigations and projects, as well as research.[2]

Inquiry is about fostering an inquisitive attitude to learning. It's about the worldwide effort to raise children into citizens who think clearly and deeply, who have gained knowledge and acquired judgement, and who take action with humanity in mind. For teachers this means:
  • Teaching as though kids' own questions really matter
  • Favouring topics of authenticity, relevance and significance
  • Focusing all our teaching around thinking, stressing knowledge over information
  • Encouring a curious, questioning and critical stance
  • Constantly offering students more choices - and more responsibility
  • Helping young people to work collaboratively in pairs, teams and groups
  • Fostering the active use of knowledge
  • Operating classrooms as model democracies
Reference: Comprehension and Collaboration - Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels (2009) (p. x)

Here is an introduction to inquiry learning by Neil Stephenson, which can be found at his website, Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning

The power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning.

Inquiry-based teaching should not be viewed as a technique or instructional practice or method used to teach a subject. Rather, inquiry starts with teachers as engaged learners and researchers with the foundational belief that the topics they teach are rich, living and generous places for wonder and exploration. 

Inquiry is not merely ‘having students do projects’ but rather strives to nurture deep, discipline-based way of thinking and doing with students 

As as entry point, inquiry involves learners:

    1. tackling real-world questions, issues and controversies 
    2. developing questioning, research and communication skills 
    3. solving problems or creating solutions
    4. collaborating within and beyond the classroom 
    5. developing deep understanding of content knowledge 
      participating in the public creation and improvement of ideas and knowledge

  1. Inquiry is a umbrella term that covers a number of other approaches to teaching and learning. Teaching practices that utilize a disposition of inquiry learning include:
      1. problem-based learning: learning that starts with an ill-structured problem or case-study
      2. project-based learning: students create a project or presentation as a demonstration of their understanding
      3. design-based learning: learning through the working design of a solution to a complex problem 
    1. As contrasted with more traditional forms of teaching and learning, inquiry emphasizes the process of learning in order to develop deep understanding in students in addition to the intended acquisition of content knowledge and skills. Inquiry draws upon a constructivist learning theories where understanding is built through the active development of conceptual mental frameworks by the learner. This approach is supported and enhanced by a broad research base which has identified three key implications for effective instructional practices:

    1. 1.Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about the world. This means teaching practices must draw out and work with students preexisting understandings and make student ‘thinking’ visible and central to the learning.
    2. 2.Competence in an area of study requires factual knowledge organized around conceptual frameworks to facilitate knowledge retrieval and application. Classroom activities should be designed to develop understanding through in-depth study of curriculum topics.
    3. 3.Meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) helps students take control of their learning. Opportunities for students to define learning goals and monitor their own understanding need to be embedded into classroom tasks.

If we are to make use of these important findings from the learning sciences, inquiry should be viewed as a highly-structured and thoughtfully designed-endeavour. As contrasted with ‘minimal-guided’ inquiry which has been shown to be marginally effective as a teaching technique, (Hattie) classroom tasks that are worthy of students time and attention, relevant, connected to the world and organized around the ‘big ideas’ of a subject can develop understanding and intellectual interest and engagement with students. 

For inquiry to be effective requires significant intellectual investment on the part of teachers to design learning tasks that are connected to the disciplines, to their students’ lives, and to the world, while focused toward clear and achievable learning targets. It requires that teachers see themselves as learners and researchers of both the subjects they teach and their professional practice as a whole.

Go to Stephenson's webpage to read more!


Digital technology supports technology because of the array of devices, software and webtools made available for teachers. Technology allows students and teachers access to current multimedia, powerful collaboration tools and a potential to communicate in a variety of ways to a global audience. 

What is most critical is that teachers should always begin with the intended learning outcomes before considering what technologies (if any) might support  student learning. For example, if a teacher is working with students on determining patterns from large sets of numbers, excel may be the appropriate tool to use so that students can sort and resort data, manipulate sets individually or as wholes, and to test their conjectures regarding perceived patterns in ways that a calculator may not.

With technology, we can explore learning with students. Technology is not a lesson, unit or project. Technology means access to tools and resources for learning. Therefore teachers need to find ways of meaningfully and authentically incorporating technology into learning. This is where inquiry comes in, with access to different resources and tech tools, students can brainstorm questions they have about a topic of learning and identify the best source or tool for finding the answer... and sometimes this means incorporating technology. Therefore as teachers we need to have good skills in digital literacy to transform learning beyond just knowing how to use a program, but help students to have the fluency to understand the best situation to apply their knowledge.

Check out this video from Ed Tech Guru, Vicki Davis and how she uses technology. Although the video below is more about Digital Literacy than Inquiry Learning, the approach fits under the Inquiry umbrella. One thing Vicki Davis emphasizes is that there are many things that she doesn't know when she is teaching students to use technology, and that quite often the students show her. She approaches projects which involve technology as a learner, just as her students would be. This shows the power of collaborative learning with students! You don't need to be an expert, just have an open mind to learning alongside the students. If you don't know something, they will be happy to show you! ;)

Vicki Davis' Blog - Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Award winning and a plethora of resources. No Tech Expertise required, just a willingness to learn something new!

Innovative teacher Vicki Davis leverages wikis, blogs, digital storytelling, podcasts, virtual worlds, and other digital tools to connect students in rural Georgia to the world. See other ways teachers are bringing their schools into the twenty-first century:

Check out Digi Teen - Digital Citizen Flat classroom Project

Join Digi Teen and get involved in Global Collaborative Projects!

Digiteen: A Flat Classroom® Project

The Digiteen™ Projectis a global hands-on project for middle and early high school students, (typically Grade 6-9, 11-15 year old) which was founded by Julie Lindsay (now in Australia) and Vicki Davis (Camilla, GA USA) in 2008. This project studies digital citizenship with students researching current topics, writing a collaborative report on a wiki, and performing and documenting offline action educational projects to promote effective digital citizenship at their local schools. The purpose of the project is to educate on and promote effective Digital Citizenship and responsible online choices as well as immersing students into an educational community for learning and collaborating.

Check out Andrew Churches document on Bloom's Digital Learning... connects closely to Inquiry learning.

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