Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inquiry-based teaching is not daunting. Just do it!

Pete (my partner in crime) wrote a great blog post on our website - Inquiry-based about our PKE project and our work with the inquiry approach to teaching and learning. I'm publishing it here, in the hopes that followers of this blog will also follow our work on our website. Enjoy!

 Some of the constant comments we hear after a workshop are that the teachers love the techniques, can't believe how engaged their kids were, and how motivated the students were to complete the explorations.  Unfortunately, close on the heels of these positive comments is a tepid suggestion that 'maybe I'll try it next year when I have more time'.  The truth is, it's not difficult to make the change from a coverage approach to an inquiry approach. 

Start off small.  Think of some really neat topic in your curriculum that you enjoy teaching.  Ask your class to create a list of questions that they have always wondered about the topic, or ask them to create a mind-map of ideas or questions they associate with the topic.  Then, ask them to think of ways you might explore together.  You, the teacher, will be learning along with them.  (As an aside, I can honestly say that in my classroom we have now tipped the balance:  the students end up teaching me more than I teach them on new explorations.  After all, there are 27 of them researching and writing, and only one of me.) 

Gather some simple materials to get started.  Show a few videos, read a few books together, or take a field trip to build some excitement and background knowledge.  This gives you lots of time to determine what mini-lessons you might want to include (we are responsible for a curriculum, after all).  Now the real fun begins.

Set up some teams or groups in your room and give them fun names.  Mix and match like crazy and don't worry about setting up just the right combination.  The students will all bring something to the table that is going to build a satisfying whole.  Create a rotation of activities that the group can rotate through and make sure of one vitally important element:  every group presents their work to the class.  The students will feel the excitement of preparing to teach their peers and rise to the challenge, I guarantee it.  They may stumble and hesitate, but end result will be that their work has an audience, is appreciated, and is the stepping stone for greater success down the line. 

See, it's not that hard.  Get started today!

Pete Douglas


  1. Well articulated Pete. Inquiry really is a great pedagogy that teaches students how to learn and gives them ownership of their learning. The best thing is that it gets better and better the more you do it. Thanks for sharing your thinking and learning.

  2. I agree with you Dan! It does get easier...and it's the best job in the world!