This is how inquiry teachers teach!

Traditional pedagogy sees the teacher provide a set of instructions, make sure everyone ‘knows what to do’, explain everything and THEN students might be given some time to do a task themselves. It’s about 80% teacher led and 20% student. Inquiry-based pedagogy gets kids doing, thinking and investigating – and the explicit teaching happens in response to what the teacher sees and hears. The 80:20 ratio is reversed. Good inquiry teachers know how to get more kids thinking more deeply more of the time.

– Kath Murdoch, How do Inquiry Teachers… teach?

Jocelyn (Year 6) shares her excitement at the way her students extracted the conceptual ideas from a series of learning engagements before collaboratively developing their own ‘central ideas’. We recall a time when we thought we had to explain all of this to our learners at the beginning of the unit!

Claire (Year 5) talks about how she provoked her students’ curiosity by asking simply ‘Can graphs be persuasive?’ Instead of Claire covering the material, the kids took off on their own inquiries, discovering different kinds of graphs themselves and making connections between maths (data) literacy (persuasive writing) and their unit of inquiry into digital citizenship.

Hailey (Year 4) reflects on the process of letting go of control, as her students develop the skills to take responsibility for their own learning. She’s practising what Guy Claxton calls split screen teaching, and her kids are using the language of ‘learnacy’ to reflect on their own learning. ‘Metacognition’, once a word teachers hardly understood themselves, let alone shared with learners, is not only practised but noticed and named by Hailey’s students.

Linda (eLearning Facilitator) tells us how she’s been supporting learners in discovering effective search strategies in an authentic context in year 5. As the children googled what they needed, they uncovered what kinds of sites would give them unbiased information and she was able to respond with tips at their point of need. She highlights the difference between this kind of learning and the old way… where she would stand and teach an isolated lesson on a particular computer skill, unrelated to any particular learning context.

Lana (Maths Coordinator) shares the excitement of one of our new teachers, developing her understanding of inquiry. She took her Year 2 students out for a walk to collect data and encouraged them to observe and count whatever they like, to be represented visually later back at school. Once she would have given them all the same boring worksheet with specific items to count. This time the learners are highly engaged as they notice their surroundings, independently recording their observations and wonderings.

We relate all these shared learning experiences back to Kath Murdoch’s latest blog post ‘How do inquiry teachers… teach?’  (Every teacher should read it!)

Kath’s post is our inspiration at today’s Learning Team Leaders meeting, one of a range of such communities of practice which exist within our school’s wider learning community. Sharing practice and professional dialogue are part of our culture. Inspirational blog posts such as this one are often the trigger for our discussions.

There is nothing quite so satisfying in a school as the passion in the voices of teachers, as they talk animatedly about teaching and learning, ask provocative questions, openly express frustrations, offer each other advice and support…

The challenge is to create enough time, within the hectic demands of school life, for everyone to be involved in these conversations.

14 thoughts on “This is how inquiry teachers teach!

  1. Hi Kath, I find this teaching method works well for my students when teaching ICT as it allows them to learn at their own pace and ask for help when needed. But as I teach primary school it does require a certain level of structure!


    1. Hi Edna,
      I am a student at the University of South Alabama, in EDM 310. Thank you for allowing me to read your blog. I really enjoyed reading about being an inquiry teacher. Also I enjoyed reading different peoples responses, as well as the quote posted.


  2. What a treat to read these stories from the classroom – wonderful vignettes of inquiry teaching and learning in action. I am delighted that the post contributed in some small way to the continued professional learning conversation at your school and will be recommending other teachers read these accounts. Keep up the amazing work!


  3. I am trying again without logging in.
    Here is the comment that it wouldn’t let me post earlier:
    Linda’s example has me rethinking how I will guide my year sixes through website evaluation this year. Thanks as always.


  4. Thanks for posting Edna. I’ve spent some time this morning catching up on some blog posts. Someone flagged Kath Murdoch’s latest one & then I saw your reply to that. I then received an email about your latest post – there was no way I could avoid it 🙂 I like the way your colleagues are so enthusiastic when describing ways they’ve been successful in supporting students with their learning & inquiry. I wonder how our teachers would respond to a similar activity – going to share your post & set up a Padlet . . let’s see what comes back


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