A More Powerful Inquiry

One of my core educational values is Curiosity. Yet, in the past I have fallen into the trap of Inquiry = Research instead of a more open curious discovery process. One of the biggest pedagogical changes I have made was when I shifted to an inquiry approach that was about allowing students more time to dwell, think and discuss their questions on whatever the topic of study was at that time.

A lot of this had been intuitive practice so I was stoked when I first came across the Galileo Educational Network website and their intro to Inquiry (thanks Karen for the link!):

Intro to What is Inquiry from Galileo Education Network

Intro to What is Inquiry from Galileo Education Network

Prior to this I had usually thought of inquiry more as the information literacy type of inquiry where you are purposely following a series of steps in your investigation. Two of the best versions I had seen of this that had influenced my practice were:

  •  this post by Katie Day where she combines Guided Inquiry (as illustrated below) and Design Thinking
  • And Kath Murdoch’s well known Inquiry process which really appeals to me for the way it describes each step as phases – which in my mind allows for a more organic inquiry process.

Last term, as part of the Specialised Learning Leaders team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School we developed our Learning Design Model below.

HPSS Learning Design Model

HPSS Learning Design Model (which is still in need of a designers hand to implement the river stones we envision)

If you are interested in how this developed then you really should read my posts from that time. But, what we really like about this model is the non-linear process, critical thought at the centre and that the language is from the NZ Curriculum document (a challenge – find the 2 words that made the cut from outside the NZC ;-)).

We have spent time as a whole staff thinking about what learning should look like in our 90 minute blocks and over a longer time frame. In each case, most learning experiences designed already included a majority of these phases – and this was before the staff were as familiar with the model as they are now!

It’s power as an inquiry process was reiterated to me many times over as I recently tested it by searching far and wide for other inquiry models for our staff. Every time, I read the models, compared them to ours and decided that (for us) our model was better. A large part of this is the fact that it is based on the language in our curriculum document but it is also about the added power that Design Thinking gives to Inquiry.

The elements of a Design thinking mindset are outlined in the diagram below from the dSchool K12 wiki.

Elements of a Design Thinking Mindset from dSchool K12 Wiki

Elements of a Design Thinking Mindset from dSchool K12 Wiki

All of these elements add power to an inquiry but for me the human centredness, bias towards action and culture of prototyping are what really make it work.

By putting people at the centre, you are requiring students to gain empathy for people affected by whatever the problem is they are investigating. To gain empathy you need to gain a real understanding of why the problem is a problem, this requires students to dig deep into the issue. Empathy also allows students to understand the emotional impact the issue can have on people which makes it far clearer why the issue is relevant, interesting and significant enough to investigate.

The bias towards action is bizarrely an aspect that has seen some teachers question the appropriateness of design thinking as an approach for all learning areas. For me, the bias towards action is what makes this an authentic inquiry process rather than another project producing a poster. Action could mean all kinds of things from making something that assists with the issue, raising awareness or $, writing letters or creating a film or book.

The culture of prototyping could apply to all the actions outlined above. Rather than simply creating one final, perfect product, prototyping shows that there is valuable learning in receiving feedback and improving your product/action. This place an emphasis on the process rather than the product and values effective feedback over grades. As things are in most industries or workplaces – a truly authentic learning experience.


4 thoughts on “A More Powerful Inquiry

  1. Pingback: Curiosity and Inspiration | Steve Mouldey

  2. Pingback: Searching for Elegant Solutions | Steve Mouldey

  3. Pingback: Design Thinking | Pearltrees

  4. Pingback: How might we use e-tools to amplify the learning in Design Thinking? | Steve Mouldey

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