What are the common threads in inquiry?

Inquiry can and should be a central feature of instruction in all classes and content areas at all grade levels.

There are many reasons and benefits to inquiry instruction. Student engagement and critical thinking may be the two most critical positive outcomes. The goal of this post, though, is not to convince people to teach by inquiry. The goal is to garner some responses from readers and fellow collaborators.

Here is my question:

What are the common threads in inquiry?

For teachers who teach by inquiry methods, what should we all have in common?

Imagine a hypothetical school system; one that holds inquiry as a primary focus and goal of instruction from Kindergarten through high school graduation (even beyond into college). What should students be experiencing consistently as they progress through such a school system? What common facets would they experience year after year?

What are the common threads in inquiry?

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6 Responses to What are the common threads in inquiry?

  1. open-mindedness – a sense that there can be different answers, perspectives and ways of coming to answers.

    “student-centered” classroom – one where the focus is not on the teacher, who owns and arbitrarily disseminates knowledge… but one in which students are asked what they most want to learn about a topic, and have input in determine how they want to present the evidence of their learning.

    I think that without these are two of the many foundational components of inquiry.


  2. Tyler says:


    Good calls on open-mindedness and the student-centered classroom. Both are absolutely critical.

    How do you teach open-mindedness?


  3. whatedsaid says:

    Nice question, Tyler… I need to answer this as a whole post! Will be back home next week and onto it then.


  4. What a great question! I thought about it for a while and here’s what I’ve come up with…

    The common threads of Inquiry
    1. Having a question you want to explore
    2. Asking questions:
    a) Research- people, books, Internet
    3. Developing a hypothesis- your own conclusion based on the information(critical thinking)
    4. Recording the information or developing an opinion

    As a high school teacher, I find that students still accept facts at face value (if the textbook, or one Website says it, it must be true). The Research (critical thinking) aspect of inquiry needs so much more work. Rather than giving students answers/facts, we need to foster their own ability to find the answer- this certainly is harder because it does require a lot more modeling by a parent/teacher in order to develop that skill- and not frustrating the student in the process…

    Great blog! Thank you!


    • Ditto on the bit about accepting facts at face value. Sometimes I’ll say something random and ridiculous to see if the students object to it (usually they don’t). Of course, I have to go back and correct it if they don’t figure it out on their own. šŸ˜‰

      Nice blog! Glad I found it! I’ll add it to my blogroll.


  5. Louise says:

    For me a central feature of an inquiry-oriented learning environment has to be respectful dialogue, where a culture of respect for each others’ thoughts, ideas, opinions, questions and musings exists, and where these are valued and celebrated. At he same time, learners should be critical thinkers, challenging ideas and looking at them from new and different perspectives.
    The posts on this blog are stimulating. Thankyou!!


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