Teaching Based on Inquiry

The act of inquiry is the backbone to the learning process: not only does it enable the construction of understandings to be able to stand tall, but it also provides the fortitude for the arms of wondering to open up. Likewise, is the center of balance for the feet of curiosity to move forward, backwards and sideways, interacting with our surroundings.

Nothing is static in our current world. Information changes; ideas are transformed; the geography of knowledge changes as drastically as our earth due to global warming, except that, in the case of inquiry, it’s the heat and the passion in one’s hear and brain what provokes the exploratory engagement that feeds our desire and thirst for learning. When our interest awake, they need to be taken care of, and inquiry can easily become its daily bread.

It’s hard to deny that the changing world causes us to wonder and invites us to take action. This makes me think that not welcoming inquiry is like accepting that everything is static and that information stays the same. Inquiry leads to reflection; reflection results from engagement. Thus, no inquiry = no engagement with our reality.

Shapeless yet adaptable; boundless yet willing to take the shape of the learning environment; expansive yet friendly to the disposition of learning both teachers and students demonstrate in their relationships; inquiry is the soul of one’s learning an engagement when one is in charge. Yet, inquiry is also open to follow the course of the collective flow. In other words, inquiry does not happen in isolation. This is why everything and everyone that has contact with learners plays a key role.

Inquiry is true differentiation, and for this reason, there is no formula as to what exact ingredients to mix. There are several frameworks that involve a variety of processes that welcome co-construction; giving and receiving; wondering and finding; sorting and questioning; searching and getting lost. Inquiry is such an amiable process that it will adjust to the shape of the learning teachers have designed, and will accommodate, bend, and adapt as the processes evolve, as new understandings are built.

Curiosity is one of the best friends’ of inquiry, hence the need to open and generate learning spaces in which creativity can be awakened and explored; where inquiry is felt as the beating heart of sustainable learning community; as the organ that helps us see that reflection is part of every process in every stage. Students will inquire naturally and wholeheartedly when they see teachers inquiring and exploring. Teachers may find that they won’t be the ones teaching students how to inquiry just as parents do not teach their children their first words. We are all born equipped and ready to inquire, we just need the trigger, the provocation, the need to start doing it. Let’s not make the mistake that there is ONE way to inquire, we all inquire differently and at different depths. Inquiry adapts. I think it’s important to discover new ways to inquire all the time. That is the whole point! Learning is all about exploring.

With no formula to impose; with no specific steps to follow, inquiry is a learning path that gets designed as we let ourselves be touched by what surrounds us, by the way ideas and our relationships change us. Inquiry is transformational, it touches us deeply and it’s hard to be who we were before something new meant something to us. Because of this, when inquiring, we need to begin by wondering what is around us and what it means to be where we are.

Below are a few popular inquiry cycles/models that can serve as framework to design learning experiences, to sketch the path we would like our learning to follow. These models do not discard the possibilities of taking a few deviations, shortcuts, or even longer, winding paths. As Morpheus said, “it is no the answer that drives us, Neo; it’s the questions that will determine where we might end up and go.”


Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle

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Kolb and Fry’s Learning Process.


Sam Sherratt’s Flow of Learning

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Kathy Short’s Inquiry Cycle


Example with Kathy Short’s IC


Example (2) with Kathy Short’s IC

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William S. Harwood Questions model

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William S. Harwood’s student inquiry map (1)

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William S. Harwood’s student inquiry map (2)

I am inquirer because I design learning with challenges for me in mind, so that I wonder in the process. I invest in dialogue with students. I let myself be touched and my understanding shaped by their discoveries. I cannot demand effective inquiry if I do not see it as an integral part of me.