Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Which Inquiry Cycle?

I was at a team meeting today - I think it was a HOD team meeting (though I'm not a HOD) - it could be that it is called a Curriculum Leadership Team meeting (note to self: check what this meeting actually is!) and we were discussing the inquiry cycle. Being a PYP school, we are committed to inquiry and to students actively constructing their own meaning through purposeful learning. The document Making the PYP Happen outlines what inquiry looks like:

Inquiry, interpreted in the broadest sense, is the process initiated by the students or the teacher that moves the students from their current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding. This can mean:

• exploring, wondering and questioning

• experimenting and playing with possibilities

• making connections between previous learning and current learning

• making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens

• collecting data and reporting findings

• clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events

• deepening understanding through the application of a concept

• making and testing theories

• researching and seeking information

• taking and defending a position

• solving problems in a variety of ways.

What we were talking about today is which inquiry cycle we should use. Should we have common terminology from Early Years up to Grade 5? We discussed the Super 3 (Plan, Do, Review), the Big 6, Kath Murdoch's inquiry cycle and others. All are very similar, though with some there is more emphasis on action. One of the things brought up at the meeting is that more emphasis should be put on making the world a better place. We felt that it would be good to have just one word that described each part of the cycle that was accessible to all students from EY to G5 and this is what we are playing around with right now:
  • Tuning In: what do students already know and what are they asking. We initially thought this could be summarised in the word Ask, but tuning in really comes before asking - it is more like students thinking "What do I know?"
  • Finding Out and Sorting Out: These could be summed up with the words Ask and Investigate.
  • Going Further: This could be Create - which is actually the highest level of Blooms's Digital Taxonomy. We liked the idea that create came in the middle of inquiry cycle, not at the end, which allows more room for feedback.
  • Making Conclusions: This could be Reflect.
  • Taking Action: This could be Do.
There is still a lot more discussion to take place around this subject, but today we moved quite a long way forward in our thinking.

Photo Credit: Botanist by RadioFlyer007


  1. Interesting post. I teach in a PYP school too. We have our authorization visit coming up soon. Have deliberately taken the process slowly, over a few years, as we developed deeper understandings of authentic inquiry.
    Would love to discuss further with you!

  2. I would have loved to be sitting in on this discussion today, it sounds like some meaningful thinking about how students best learn. Where can I read more about PYP schools? Does your school have a website?

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  4. I discovered your blog via @melynntwit on Twitter. One of the most helpful resources I've found for understanding inquiry is Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. It begins with a discussion of the theory and rationale underlying guided inquiry, and the second part presents a useful model. I especially like the fact that it is based on research.

    On another note, your blog brought back pleasant memories of my three years teaching at Munich International School. I sometimes wonder how my life story would have played out had I stayed in the international school system!

    Blogger sure doesn't make it easy to post a comment. It defaults to an ancient test blog of mine and won't let me change it. I normally use Wordpress, but even that option did not allow me to put in my own domain name. Guess I'll go with the out-of-date option. I had actually forgotten about that piece of my digital footprint.