Inquiry into learning…

Do you focus as much on the process of learning as the content?

Do your students reflect as much on how they learn as on what they learn.

As a PYP school, we have six units of inquiry each year, one under each of the following trans-disciplinary themes:

Before exploring any other subject areas, we plan to start the coming school year at each grade level, with an inquiry (directly or indirectly) into learning. A unit that sets the tone for all the coming units. One that gets students thinking about factors that contribute towards their learning and reflecting about how they learn.

Our Preps will inquire into how our learning environment helps us learn. It’s their first year of school, in a shared, flexible learning space, with new routines and timetables to adjust to, so this a fitting first inquiry for the year. (Trans-disciplinary Theme: How We Organise Ourselves)

Year 2 will investigate the qualities of effective learners and how these can help us learn, individually and collaboratively. We’re hoping that, through their inquiry, they will develop a better understanding of the Learner Profile, get to know themselves and others as learners and begin to take more responsibility for their learning. They might decide to ask the world about the qualities of effective learners, so be ready! (Trans-disciplinary Theme: Who We Are)

Year 3 will explore the information process… how we decide what we want to learn, formulate questions, locate, organise and evaluate information. Year 4 will inquire into what it means to be organised and how this can empower us, not just in our learning, but in life. Year 6 will explore individual and group decision-making and its impact, personally, in the classroom community and working outwards towards their study of government.

The intention is that starting the year with inquiries such as these will increase students’ awareness of themselves as learners and help build learning communities in our classrooms and in our school.

If you’re interested in the subject of learning communities, join the #pypchat discussion on Thursday and share ideas with an ever-growing community of inquirers!

9 thoughts on “Inquiry into learning…

  1. I find this to be very interesting. I so anxious to see how this actually turns out. I think it’s going to be a great process. I agree with anything that helps the learning process.


  2. HI Edna

    I have used this approach with many schools and it is generally a very successful way to begin the year. It also gives a very purposeful ‘angle’ to the work we do on setting up the classroom and making decisions about the kind of space and culture we are constructing with students. I’ve learned a few tips along the way – some pitfalls to avoid. One thing to bear in mind is that these inquiries often don’t require the same length of time as others do…they act as powerful ‘start up’ investigations and students need to apply the learning about learning sooner rather than later or it starts to feel abstract and disconnected. I love the idea of this being a start up inquiry AND a year long inquiry …”learning about learning” is an overarching, recurring theme. These central ideas should stay on the wall (and in our heads) all year! Great stuff as always Edna.


  3. Thanks, Kath. In some cases,it will extend beyond a short inquiry,because it leads into something further, like the year 6 unit which will extend into the concept of governance.

    Love the idea of it being a year long unit. We planned Year 5 today, so it didn’t make the blog post. The central idea is ‘Understanding digital citizenship empowers us to be active participants in our world’. I mentioned that it would be a year long unit and the teachers responded that it’s more like a life-long unit!


  4. Great ideas. I love the “learning how to learn” and think it is a valuable start to every year. I am working at an international PYP school and have currently moved down in grade level. We are working on a “how we learn” inquiry for Gr 2. I like your idea of an inquiry into the learner profile. I am curious how you managed to make this topic more “hands on” and concrete for the lower year levels, especially with a lot of ELL students. Any advice? help? ideas? especially for the summative assessment?


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