An inquiry of my own…

‘Inquire Within’ is a blog for discussion about inquiry, where teachers can learn from and with other teachers, a shared investigation into what inquiry looks like in different contexts and an opportunity to share challenges and successes.

So far, so good. It took a remark from an outsider to make me realize how exceptional it is.  We already have contributions from four continents. We teach different areas and different ages through different programs… but we share some common beliefs about how learning takes place.

So here’s what I am wondering… and hopefully you’ll join me in this inquiry of my own…

Why is it that all the contributors (so far) are either primary school teachers (specifically PYP teachers) or science teachers. For now it’s probably just that I invited ‘my’ people and Tyler invited ‘his’ people. But it might also be bigger than that….

Inquiry is often perceived as something unique to science. Or else something that belongs to a particular learning program (PBL or PYP, for instance.) It seems to me that inquiry-based learning should be just as effective for history or language or maths.

Isn’t inquiry one of the most natural ways for learning to occur? By questioning, exploring, seeking information, experimenting, making connections and constructing meaning?

Flickr photo by 姒儿喵喵

About whatedsaid

Teaching and Learning Coordinator at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. I'm a teacher, a learner, an inquirer...
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10 Responses to An inquiry of my own…

  1. Why PYP teachers or science teachers? Such an interesting observation. It suggests to me the role of a formal method of inquiry. I don’t have direct experience with PYP or teaching science, but as I understand it there is an explicit method of things to DO and ways to SEE in both specialties.

    I’m curious to know if this rings true?


  2. I just found an interesting post in support of the importance of explicit methods.

    ” So, I went back and looked at how I set them up to write. Ah-ha! I found my mistake. In my desire not to inhibit their creativity, I didn’t give them the usual guidelines to follow. I had missed a step. My students expect me to provide them with a structure, and without it, they couldn’t see the big picture.”


  3. Great point! Isn’t the use of say a Socratic Seminar inquiry? I’ve read about Socratic Seminars but haven’t used it yet in my Science classes. I know social studies teachers use it. They should contribute to Inquire Within! I’d love to read how their seminars are going.


  4. Jessica says:

    Edna, you can also look at it this way (and this applies primarily to PYP schools I have worked at and/or visited in Europe): How come that teachers are struggling to use inquiry-based learning and teaching outside of the units of inquiry?
    I have found that many teachers still use more teacher-centered approaches in both Language and Math. The same goes for specialists!

    What is making inquiry so “scary”?

    Comments I have heard are that “We don’t get all the curriculum done” and “We don’t get the Math done” and these are comments from PYP teachers who are quite confidently applying the principles of inquiry-based learning inside the unit of inquiry.
    My suspicion is that some people think Math and Language are “more important subjects”….. and that inquiry is better suited for the “softer” options.
    NOT my opinion, and only an assumption.


  5. Cristina says:

    Hi Edna,
    That was my observation as well. That also happens in the other branches of the IB -as MYP or DP. The focus is more on individual study and students are loaded with essays to be written – which contradicts the inquiry principles to some extent.
    The second part of the comment was triggered by Jessica’s reply (with whom I totally agree). I can relate to the Language focus as I teach in an IB bilingual school.
    Students are NOT immersed in an English- speaking environment – I have only 3 hrs per day with them only (the rest are assigned for Romanian, Art, P.E. etc – all being taught in Romanian!). The students do not hear English except at school , 90% of them being Romanian. By the way, we have a different system- I teach the same class of students from 1st to 4th grade.
    This is the background…Now…I do engage students in exploring and inquiring into language BUT that happens usually at the beginning of a new, say, language pattern (e.g. spelling- vowel pairs, consonant digraphs etc). After that…I DO have to have “drill” lessons. Students need to practice and apply what they learnt because they simply DO NOT KNOW the language, and do not hear it elsewhere either.
    When I posted a similar question on PYP Threads (How do you do inquiry in what regards language?) I only got vague answers. It seems that everybody has this issue and they all DO have phonics/Language Arts lessons.


  6. Cristina says:

    (sorry…forgot to mention this)
    Having the opportunity to teach the same students for 4 years in a row, I can tell you that language learning is critical. In 1st and 2nd grades I have daily spelling/language arts classes while in 3rd and 4th they are less and less frequent (once every two weeks or so – as mini lessons on something students found intriguing/difficult in what regards language). Although we learn THE language and THROUGH language the emphasis varies for each age group. And it would be unrealistic to do otherwise.


  7. Tyler says:


    What a great observation! I see two big reasons for this:

    1. Inquiry is formalized in the U.S. National Science Education Standards, and in the standards of every state with which I am familiar. This gives legitimacy to inquiry instruction in science. Other areas (social studies, for example) have also done this but maybe not as clearly.

    2. Professional development & publications. There are many PD opportunities for science educators in the area of inquiry. I have not heard this term used very often in any other content area. There are MANY books about inquiry in science. Not so much in other areas.

    I’ve been really trying to push inquiry with my interdisciplinary colleagues. It has been a mostly uphill battle. I think most teachers are aware of the concept but think it doesn’t apply to them.

    Then there are the science teachers that just plain disagree with the concept of inquiry and refuse to change their practices…


  8. jfb57 says:

    I think your post highlights the importance of voacularly & how a word can means completely different things to different people. Perhpas it should be research? I link with class blog where children ‘research’ stories, art etc.


  9. ktenkely says:

    I’m so glad that you all are doing this. Thank you!


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