What true inquiry teachers DON’T say


A version of this post appears on my blog http://justwonderingblog.com

It was inspired by a recent trend in the twittersphere  “#whatnoteachersaidever.“   That this trended so quickly was fascinating.  By highlighting the statements we would NOT hear from a teacher – tweeters around the world delighted in acknowledging the hard work and dedication of so many great teachers.  

 This trend also reminded me of a useful technique in helping learners come to understand a concept.  In order to understand what something IS – it can helps to think about what it ISN’T.   I have used this technique many times with students: inevitably it is more fun to, for example, devise a role play to show the opposite of team work than it is to show what team work is.  Perspective – seeing something from another angle – is a powerful lens through which we can look at what we believe or understand afresh.  The statements below can also be used to explore assumptions and beliefs about learning and teaching and learning in general – not just inquiry.

 So here’s some light-hearted musings on what I DON’T hear from the great inquiry teachers around the world with whom I am so fortunate to work.   


What true inquiry teachers DON’T say…

I really love inquiry but sometimes I think we just have to TEACH.

 What a great planning session! We have 10 weeks worth of activities all mapped out.

We do inquiry on Thursday afternoons and Tuesday mornings.

 Here is last year’s unit plan.  Let’s just use this or “This is what happens in this unit”

These kids have no real “experiences”

 Oh – I’ve “done”  inquiry learning.

 This is just what we were doing back in the 70’s/80’s/90’s. 

 I did inquiry-based teaching at my old school – it was their policy. I don’t do it.

here because it’s not the policy.

 My kids aren’t thinkers. They just can’t think!

 But what are we going to do for the portfolio?

 I use inquiry learning with my top group. They are ready for it.

 I think this worksheet will be a great way to get them thinking.

 I would do more inquiry-based stuff but we just don’t have time.

 These are the steps the kids go through. I use the same steps every time.

Let’s each take one part of the cycle and plan some activities for it – then we can just pass them on to each other.

 I just seem to have so much time on my hands.

We won’t know what they’ve really learned until they do this summative task.

This is OK for older kids but the younger students need to be taught the basic skills.

That unit of inquiry was perfect.

I’d really like to use an inquiry based approach but we have standards we have to report against in this school/in this state/in this system/in this country.

 I would use inquiry if I didn’t have so much content to cover.

 That paper and pencil test was so informative.

If there were more books they could actually read – then we could use an inquiry approach but we just  don’t have the resources for that kind of teaching.

 It’s not fair to teach this way and then send them to high school where they have to get used to text books, exams and a more academic approach.

But what about the stuff they just HAVE to know?

 We don’t do inquiry in April – May because of NAPLAN.

 These kids need structure  – inquiry is too unstructured for them.

 We don’t assess the skills and dispositions.  You can’t really.

 Every question got answered! Every wondering got addressed!

 I’m going to teach the content first – so I know I’ve covered the curriculum. Then I give them time to do an inquiry project if we have time.  

I need to find an activity for all the subject areas.  This topic should infuse my entire program.

We have to focus on literacy and numeracy before we can get into inquiry learning.

Ahhhhhh….. That was actually rather therapeutic.

I wonder what you would add to the list? I wonder what these statements say about inquiry learning itself?  About the beliefs that sit behind them?

 If we know what something isn’t – maybe that’s a sign we know what it is.


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2 Responses to What true inquiry teachers DON’T say

  1. They don’t say, “This is not real school. This is not real teaching.”


  2. lrenshaw11 says:

    A great approach to examining a range of responses to inquiry. What really struck me in reading your list of common responses was that I have often heard similar comments in response to other educational initiatives. I work in Vocational Education with both youth and adults and feel that what seems to lie behind some of these responses is fear, a fear of failure, fear of difference, fear of learning, and fear of ‘getting into trouble’…. My favourite comment would be
    ‘ there are no competencies about inquiry in this course, so I’m not doing it’ !!


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