As I am planning for the new inquiry unit I was looking over some of my older notes and thought of organizing them into a chart that some might find helpful. Sure, I could have used the fanciest web tools to make it look nicer  but I guess simplicity is often underestimated. Or I am a bit lazy. Take your pick.

*Side note: This is my notebook. You can tell I prefer doodling to organized stuff. And drawing to blogging.


Back to my notes. One error that some teachers make is mistaking engaging activities for inquiry. How can it be? They use a hands-on approach, their lessons are interesting, they organize learning around a theme, and, yes, even emphasize “interdisciplinarity” – “Dinosaur” theme in Science, Math, Art and whatnot.

(*A digression – “dinosaur” themes DO NOT exist in a concept-driven curriculum; maybe “extinction”, “survival” – concepts that are powerful enough to drive inquiry).

Oh well, the problem is that the key-factor is missing: inquiry.


Structured INQUIRY

Activity dominatedTeacher in chargeTopics: superficial or forced connections Questioning and thinking are visible, encouraged and continuously refinedTeacher-student collaborationConcept-driven, significant content un-covered through questions
FocusSs share what they know/want to knowSs engage in pre-planned activities

Ss engage in problem-solving only

Ss research topics and prepare projects for class


at the expense of CRITICAL THINKING

FocusSs spend time to prioritize their questionsSs engage in problem-posing

Teachers and students engage in designing activities that support inquiry

Ss experience being scientists, historians, geographers etc.

Ss collect resources, have time to share observations, make connections

Ss use the questions as criteria to judge progress in learning

Ss learn and apply new skills in meaningful contexts

ResearchSs make dioramas, write reports or make posters which are tangentially related to the themeFocus on product not process

Presentation: viewed as a culmination activity

ResearchSs look for connections and coherence always following the question(s)Focus: on the process of learning, of thinking, of exploration

Presentation: just one phase in the inquiry cycle

Learning emphasisCoverage and supply of information (even if in new, interesting and “engaging” ways) Learning emphasis“Did we answer our questions?”
KnowledgeViewed as gathering of facts KnowledgeViewed as understanding, as constructing meaning ——– it would lead the learner to ask new questions and create more “compelling theories”
AfterwardsSs feel they have “finished” with the topic AfterwardsSs return to the inquiry as a way to deepen their understanding