I’m delighted to see educators around the world embracing the term ‘inquiry’. The word itself is so nebulous that it defies definition. One could assume it means simply ‘asking a question’, but it also means ‘collecting and organizing information’. Broadened further in my preferred nomenclature, ‘inquiry learning’ perplexes even further.
Are we learning through inquiry? Are we learning about inquiry? Are we inquiring into learning? Is it just a typo?
It’s an ideal topic for Making Learning Connected. As Michael Weller writes in his post, CLMOOC 2015: Make An Inquiry, Make Cycle 1 for the Make an Inquiry strand this summer, ”I think that inquiry, like the term research, can be intimidating – but I don’t think it needs to be!’.
As connected educators take to the information superhighway to explore and interpret the meaning of ‘inquiry learning’, our evaluations and reflections belie insecurity.
If a term exists that can be known, then we should be able to know it.
After all, we are educated.
We all want to get it right.
One prominent and highly visible modality in this rush to ‘get it’ is through graphics. A Google Images search for ‘inquiry cycle’ yields an overwhelmingly diverse field of interpretations. Many of these visual interpretations reveal fresh thought and creative courage in the true spirit of inquiry learning, like sprouts through the detritus.
After reading his post, Let Me Introduce Myself: From Pasture to Post, Tacit Knowing All the Way Down, I believe that Terry Elliott would enjoy a walk in this pasture ripe with nuanced tacit knowing meditating behind the desire for shared understanding.
A diverse harvest of inquiry models
Some models are quite prescriptive, like this inquiry cycle by Nicole Laura from the post, Apps to Support Inquiry: Connect and Wonder.
(All images of inquiry models are hyperlinks to sources).
Some are adaptations or remixes of well known models, such as this KWHLAQ chart from Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s post, An Update to the Upgraded KWL for the 21st Century.
Some focus on questions to provoke inquiry, like this model from International School of Tianjin.
Some incorporate elements from popular design thinking (which I sometimes blog about using the LX Design label) models.
|Design Inquiry Cycle by Rebecca Grodner, Shula Ponet|
|Figure 4. The Process of Inquiry and Research: Model 2|
Most are based, directly or indirectly, on the work and writings of Kath Murdoch, whose post Busting some myths about ‘the inquiry cycle’… is required reading for anyone seeking to define, understand, or otherwise grapple with ‘inquiry’.
Don’t try too hard
We are all getting it right
As long as we are trying, we are getting it. This is a mindset that also applies well in the classroom.
It’s easy to design a comprehensible worksheet, but nobody learns much from it.
It’s hard to empower learning, and everybody learns a lot from it.
In my classroom, we use models primarily to share and participate in each other’s inquiry learning. Most of my role as a teacher is to help students to publish their learning to each other and the greater school community.
Learners can utilize the models in ways that help them, and we often modify or ignore them as necessary.
There is no curriculum for inquiry learning. It is the Knowledge, Concepts, Skills, and Attitudes that emerge and grow in pursuit of one’s curiosities. Attempts to bind inquiry learning to an established curriculum are valiant, yet often mutually destructive.
My CLMOOC ‘Make an inquiry’ Model
Often, inquiry learning models begin with some iteration of ‘formulating questions’, but I have found that that is not necessarily the best way to begin an inquiry.
Whether it speaks to my preferred learning modality or personality type, I find that making is a great way to start. The challenges that arise catalyze questions. The enjoyment of the process of making demands to be shared. Reflection on doing is inherently more motivating than reflecting on thinking.
The challenge for teachers is to document and curate a constantly evolving authentic learning community!
With that in mind, please enjoy the inquiry model I made for CLMOOC this year, entitled The importance of irreverence..