Learning through inquiry…

We gather for a collaborative session to plan the next Year 4 unit of inquiry. The unit was developed last year and we check the reflections on our PYP planner so we can consider what changes need to be made. Our units begin with a universal enduring understanding, which we call the ‘central idea’, a few supporting lines of inquiry and a couple of key concepts which provide the lens through which the exploration will take place. More about PYP unit planning in a post by Maggie HosMcGrane.

The unit went really well last year, but the teachers feel the central idea needs tweaking and we throw around a few ideas. We’re looking at something like this: ‘Geographical, environmental and economic factors in fresh food production affect our choices as consumers’ and the learning experiences will include hands on weekly lessons in the school garden and kitchen. It’s the first time this team is using a google doc to refine their thinking before the next session and it’s very successful. You can see the thinking unfold here.

Through the planning process, we’re being inquiry learners ourselves, questioning, making connections, exploring possibilities and experimenting with new tools. It’s an example of another of our learning principles in action. I’ve posted before about how we articulated our beliefs about learning and are working on unpacking them to help teachers shift the focus in our school from teaching to learning.

Principle #3: Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.


  • Learners discover and uncover new ideas and information for themselves.
  • Learners test ideas and experiment with possible solutions to problems.
  • The teacher doesn’t have all the answers.
  • Curiosity is provoked and questioning is encouraged.
  • A culture of thinking is created, in which learners engage with big ideas.
  • The process of thinking is visible in the environment and in conversations.
  • Learners construct meaning for themselves by making connections between new and past learning.
  • The focus is as much on process of learning as it is on content.
  • Opportunities are provided for students to make choices and follow their passions.

Posts in this series:

Principle #1: We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.

Principle #2: Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.


7 thoughts on “Learning through inquiry…

  1. Just wanted to say how much I’ve been enjoying this series of posts. Each link seems to lead to some new little gem of information! This post has made me stop and think again – coming from a school keen on thinking skills but less so about inquiry learning. You make the connection quite clear and I’ll be taking those dot points back to the staff asap.


  2. Another great entry Edna! The principles are simple, straight forward, and thought provoking. Principle #3 is particularly good in my science class. I always allot time for students to participate in “discovery learning” at the beginning of a new unit. The other day, I had my students touch, tear apart, and play with agar. They made an absolute mess but they were able to manipulate and be curious about the medium that bacteria grow on (sans bacteria of course!) Then the question came: “If this feeds bacteria, I wonder what this tastes like?” These principles are something that all teachers should post somewhere in their classroom for a nice reminder of the practice of educating.


  3. Edna,
    I am inspired by the reflective practice your school is using to improve units on a regular basis. I am passing this post along to my colleagues in the spirit of initiating a conversation on how best to improve the collaborative, integrated and transdisciplinary nature of our units.
    Thanks for the inspiration,


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