Friday, July 31, 2015

Inquiry in the Real World

I was inspired to write this post after reading the article "What Does Inquiry Look Like?" written by Stephanie on her Teaching the Teacher Blog. I totally agree with her premise that inquiry is by no means linear and i like the analogy to a painter's palette where you dip in and out of stages using the colours you want when you need them and maybe even ignoring some colours altogether. I also like her representation of inquiry in the real world as a Jackson Pollock Painting. 

I think however that she has missed an important point. I believe the key lies in knowing the purpose of the inquiry and that should be the guide. As I wrote in my post Play, Passion and Purpose, the purpose of the inquiry needs to be very clear to both teacher and students right from the start. When I see inquiries that have gone off the rails it is most often because the purpose was unclear or sometimes not known at all.

If the purpose is the focus, then the inquiry simply proceeds to achieve that purpose dipping in and out of stages as the need arises and always checking in to see what else is needed to achieve that purpose. The more authentic this inquiry is and the more relevant it is to the students, the easier this will be. 

In this inquiry, for example, the students in Fraser Quinn's class at Putaruru Primary wanted to make a ki-o-rahi field and set about doing just that. The students led the process under the guidance of their teacher and the purpose guided the inquiry from start to finish. This is what inquiry in the real world looks like.


  1. Hi Jan-Marie
    Thanks for your response. I love it when my thinking provokes more thinking. I wrote this post mainly thinking about an instance last year where my class was finishing up a unit on social change and moving into earth forces when the Nepal earthquake happened. The kids came into school wanting to take action and did through a student made video and a climbathon.

    The action served as a provocation for the next unit where they moved into thinking about the events as scientists. Was the fundraising tuning in or taking action? Maybe it was both? It does mean that sometimes you might need to alter purpose and models to move with our changing world.


  2. Hi Stephanie
    The lines defining different stages can definitely be blurred and one inquiry often leads into another. Certainly an action could be at the start and could be both tuning in and an action, but more often I would think that some research would need to take place to determine the most appropriate action.

    The purpose can certainly evolve as the inquiry proceeds and more information comes to hand. I am in complete agreement about models, they should never be rigid, step, by, step process. The real world is never like that and student inquiries should be as close to the real world as possible.