How my students responded to open inquiry

Like most teachers, I’ve been caught up in the day-to-day business of my job, and have forgotten my promise to keep you updated with how my students responded to my experiment in “Flipping the Inquiry Ratio.” (posted here:

Students were given the Statement of Inquiry for the unit: “Individuals and Communities are affected by systems of government and political ideologies,” and then encouraged to develop their own inquiry as long as it related to the concepts of systems of political ideologies and governments and their effects on people around the world. Students developed an  individual inquiry question and two assessment tasks (chosen from a list of 17 different formats, such as Expert Talk, Factsheet, Manifesto,  Propaganda, Political Cartoon, Graphic Story, Informative Poster, Documentary Film).

Some examples of student-developed inquiries and assessment tasks were:

  • How is conservatism affecting rights of the LGBT community globally?
  • How were African Americans affected by a conservative political system?
  • How does Islamic feminism compare with Western feminism?
  • What was the effect of Confucianism on governments and political ideologies in East Asia?

Overall I thought it was a great unit. Students really delved into topics they were interested in learning more about, and were highly engaged throughout the learning process. But what did they think of it all? Some student reflections:

” I personally really liked the idea of an self-directed inquiry. I think it gives a student freedom on what topic is he interested in rather than a teacher giving him a topic, and it gives the student an opportunity of doing research and learning the topic in his own way. Everybody has a different way of learning, and this project gave the student the freedom to learn in his own way.”

“I thought that the self-directed research project was a good idea because it gave me a sense of Independence. I especially liked how we could choose our own topic of which we were interested in, it gave me the sense of wanting to research it for my own knowledge and understanding. In other words it was something I wanted to learn myself and not something a teacher would necessarily want me to learn.”

“This makes me enjoy each humanities class more, since I get to learn what I want to actually learn about, instead of listening to other topics I am not even a bit interested in. As I did my research, I started to feel more and more interested in the topic and I felt like finding out more about it satisfied my curiosity. Questions often pop up in my head and then my research answers the questions I have.”

But of course, not all my students agreed…

“Personally, I thought this unit was the hardest that I’ve ever learned or done in the whole of MYP since its an unguided and open unit. Normally we would see teachers setting guidelines for us for what we must be doing and narrowing down our research when we look by ourselves into information, and since we are looking into systems which is so big, as for me I researched into too many things which turned out to be pretty irrelevant later but I didn’t realize myself, so I need to be more careful with it.”

Obviously I’ve learned from the process as well and look forward to exploring the nature of a more scaffolded process of inquiry in future units.

About darrylanderson

MYP Coordinator and MYP Humanities teacher. Currently passionate about developing concept-based inquiry skills in the Humanities classroom.
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2 Responses to How my students responded to open inquiry

  1. whatedsaid says:

    Hi Darryl

    Good to have you post again and great to hear the student reflections on their self directed learning. The last one was interesting.. Do you think (some) kids are moulded by school systems to become dependent on teacher input in order to learn? Have you watched Sugata Mitra’s TED talks on self organised learning? (latest one just out) Might be interesting to show to your students (especially that one!) and see what they think…


  2. Thanks Edna, it’s on my list of videos to watch this weekend. I agree that a lot of students have become too dependent on the teachers telling them what to do. If I received unenthusiastic comments about my approach, it was because they lacked the time-management strategies to succeed (but were aware of it).


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