what is inquiry?

“What’s in a question you ask? Everything. It is evoking stimulating response or stultifying inquiry. It is in essence, the very core of teaching”

– John Dewey

During Open House last week, our classroom teachers shared some information about their six Units of Inquiry and what concepts and standards would be explored in some of their units. These Units of Inquiry (six total) are taught from grades Kindergarten through fifth grade, culminating in the fifth grade Exhibition. The thematic units are intentionally named Units of Inquiry because “since its inception, the PYP has been infused with a spirit of inquiry” (MTPYPH pg. 28).

One of the benefits to being at an IB school is that students get the opportunities to authentically and more meaningfully construct their learning. This is primary done through the intentional use of inquiry by the classroom teacher.

So the question remains, what IS inquiry then? 

“Inquiry…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” (MTPYPH p.29). It may also be helpful to know what inquiry is not. It is NOT inquiry if students know what “results” they are supposed to get or the question and the steps are predetermined for them. But perhaps, in order to best understand what inquiry is we should take a peek into the amazing and dynamic classrooms here at Spicewood!

Image

A fourth grade classroom breaks down their Central Idea, Understanding rights and responsibilities contributes to our development as world citizens, into small phrases and words. 

Students in the classroom above participated in inquiry by exploring, wondering and questioning. In small groups, they jotted down ideas, pictures or questions related to the words presented to them. It didn’t matter whether or not their were right or wrong, the teacher intentionally created an opportunity for the students to make their thinking visible as they all explored their understanding of certain concepts at the beginning of their unit. This activity culminated in a classroom discussion of the ideas shared on the small posters. Students were able to share their thinking, ask more questions and in some cases defend their current thinking. The teacher, in turn, will use this inquiry experience as a guide for what next steps to take to support the students construct meaning of the Central Idea over the next six weeks of their planner.

Image (1)  Ms. Vanzura’s first grade classroom

In the primary classroom above you see the last (or third) Line of Inquiry, Friendships can fluctuate and change, is posted in her room as a guide to probe wondering and questioning among the students. The idea of “Friendship” must first be investigated by the students before deepening their understanding of the concept. Students brainstormed qualities of a friend. The teacher is the facilitator of learning, providing opportunities for exploration through classroom discussion as well as through the illustration piece you see on the right. As the class moves through the Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are, they will continue to revisit this line of inquiry, making connections between their learning experiences and in turn taking action (thinking, feeling, doing, saying, having and being) with their new conceptual learning.

Image (2)

Fourth grade students exploring different tones and shades using the primary colors on their palettes. 

We even see inquiry in our Specials areas.

In art this week, our fourth graders participated in “The 100 Color Challenge” as a way to explore and experiment with possibilities before they implement their learning into their landscapes that they will begin to work on in the coming weeks. The teacher is facilitating their learning through this exercise by asking questions to challenge student thinking, again “allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and taking responsibility for that learning” (MTPYPH pg.29).

How can you use inquiry at home to help guide and encourage your child’s genuine curiosity on their wanting and needing to know more about the world?

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4 thoughts on “what is inquiry?

  1. […] Earlier this school year we’ve talked about what inquiry was and how it was used in our classrooms here at Spicewood and during our Parent PYP 101 event, I took parents through the inquiry cycle, giving them a condensed, but first hand experience of how teachers use the inquiry cycle to guide their learning experiences and units of inquiry. As educators our role is to guide students towards new understanding as we unpack big concepts through questioning, research and discussion. […]

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  2. […] Earlier this school year we’ve talked about what inquiry was and how it was used in our classrooms here at Spicewood and during our Parent PYP 101 event, I took parents through the inquiry cycle, giving them a condensed, but first hand experience of how teachers use the inquiry cycle to guide their learning experiences and units of inquiry. As educators our role is to guide students towards new understanding as we unpack big concepts through questioning, research and discussion. […]

    Like

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