Is inquiry a struggle for you?

I was asked by someone starting up a collective blog whether we have a schedule at Inquire Within, with some sort of plan of who will post when.

I told him inquiry doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes Inquire Within goes quiet for a while. and I feel it might be a bit of a struggle to get it going again. Then someone asks the right question (Can I/you post that at IW?) and suddenly it springs back into life with contributions from all over the place. Like now!

Teachers sometimes struggle with inquiry and long for a lesson plan too, something that will guide them in what to do and where to go next.

I tell them inquiry doesn’t work that way.

It’s about listening really carefully to where the learning is at. Hearing what the learners are thinking. And asking the right question at the right time.

Read Shelley Wright‘s post about what she’s learned from being an inquiry teacher. She says, ‘ First, I’ve learned how to struggle.  When I taught traditionally, I didn’t feel I could show the struggle, even though it was there under the surface.  Learning to struggle has helped me to ask questions, in fact, pursue them, even though I might not like the answer. We need inquiry classrooms because struggle is such a normal part of our lives, and kids need to see it modelled and embraced as something good and life-sustaining.  When we stop struggling, we stop growing.’

Is inquiry a struggle for you?

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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14 Responses to Is inquiry a struggle for you?

  1. Valerie Lees says:

    I think it is a struggle for most of us but that’s also what makes inquiry such a rich, vivid, memorable and engaging learning experience. If it were easy, are you really learning?


  2. Penny says:

    I think that when teachers use a teachers’ inquiry model into their own practices they are better placed to guide and coach students though their inquiries.
    For me a breakthrough was realising that not every inquiry needed to go full circle – as this causes burnout for everyone.
    And that a really good inquiry will often lead you to a totally different place than where you started – much like what happens when we inquire into our own practices.
    Celebrate the unexpected. Go with the flow and breathe through the chaos!


  3. whatedsaid says:

    Thanks, Penny. Good points! Have you read Kathy Short’s article Inquiry as a Stance? (and every post on Kath Murdoch’s blog!) It helps when teachers stop seeing the learning as ‘AN inquiry’; rather inquiry as a whole way of learning and living 🙂


    • Penny says:

      Yes I am a Kath Murdoch fan but haven’t read Kathy Shorts article but I will be!!


      • tasha cowdy says:

        Yes, this was an “ah ha!” moment for me as well -thanks to Kathy Short! (And Kath Murdoch). Not all inquiries go the full circle. Inquiry as a stance rather than an inquiry. This has made a significant difference to the way I plan and structure inquiries and has allowed for deeper (and messier!) inquiry in my classroom.


  4. Jina says:

    I love learning – in my classroom and in my life.
    I used to do a lot of teaching. With my class, my own children and my colleagues. Since arriving at my current school, I do a lot of thinking , rethinking, listening and learning.
    I, too, often struggle with the process. With choosing the “right” words, the “best” thinking routine and the “most appropriate ” response to things.
    At times like this , I turn to a colleague (usually the same one) and ask for guidance.
    I love the seeds that she sows. Often she causes me to debate with myself.
    Sometimes, I try what she suggests and it’s awesome. Sometimes, I don’t think it through properly – and it’s not awesome. But I always take something useful away.
    Inquiry can be a struggle – but watching the learners in my class thrive; learn to think; ask questions and question me and themselves is a journey that makes me reflective , sometimes insecure and often inspired.


  5. whatedsaid says:

    Beautifully said, Jina. You should consider blogging as a way to reflect…


  6. CristinaM. says:

    Inquiry without struggle? Hardly if ever.

    But there is this paradox: the planning part takes me most of the time. What strategies out of the hundreds I know would trigger most thinking? What resources are most likely to stimulate curiosity? How much freedom vs structure should I provide? What are the language barriers that might make a certain approach less effective (as I teach second-language learners)?

    These and more questions float in my head not only before each inquiry unit but also DURING inquiry itself because I adapt my teaching to student prior knowledge and learning process. So no, inquiry without discomfort is unlikely to be authentic inquiry.


  7. Philip Cummings says:

    I’m still in the beginning stages of all of this, but yes, I find it really hard. It’s messy and definitely a struggle. Too be honest I was ready to give it up at the end of last week. Then, I had a visitor come to our room this week, and the fresh eyes helped me see all the good that is taking place. The encouragement from a colleague “in the room” and Shelley’s post made me realize that the messiness is serving a greater purpose.


  8. rolat2 says:

    As a teacher you have to accept that learning through inquiry is a process that is slow and messy as you explore the learning with your students. I am still learning the process with my students as we explore curriculum inquiry and as a teacher you need to know your students and reflect with them on throughout the process. I have learned the importance of how the process becomes relevant to students’ daily experiences and new learning becomes their responsibility.


  9. kviloria says:

    I think struggles and mistakes are best when we learn from it. For me, awareness and acceptance that there is a struggle is the first step of growth. Sometimes accepting our struggles is a struggle! My learning process is incomplete without the confusions and questions. It takes humility, action and persistence to grow. This is something that we should also teach our children. That it’s normal to struggle and make mistakes, and it’s what we learn from those that matter more. To take risks and never give up, no matter how confusing things may be.


  10. tasha cowdy says:

    I struggle with inquiry all the time! The struggles arise from tensions in my reflections which challenge my thinking and push me out of my comfort zone. Like Jina (above), I find talking through my struggles with the rest of my team (and often, my students) is key to helping me organize my thinking; together we debate and adapt and develop our understandings. I have come to love these struggles and tensions. I can’t imagine teaching and learning any other way. My own never-ending inquiries keep me (comfortably) uncomfortable and make the teaching and learning richer for me and my students (and my colleagues and sometimes parents).


  11. Pingback: Inquiry-Based Staff Orientation – Making Good Humans

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