Parameters for success in inquiry

I just finished attending the Edugains Literacy Camp this week.  The focus of this week is developing discourse and curiosity in the classroom….read between the lines: we’re talking about inquiry!

We tried this new discussion strategy tonight called World Cafe, that lead to some very interesting tangential diversions about implementing inquiry-based learning. We had some stimulating discussions following videos featuring Lucy West, where we defined accountable talk, and were encouraged to develop strategies that would have  teachers modelling the ideal conditions of inquiry.  Of course, the highlight was a live video conference with Alec Couros.  Dr. Couros challenged us with two questions:

  1. How can teachers use the power of personalisation to inform how we use inquiry-based learning?
  2. How can teachers help students to develop authentic networks to support their learning?

Alec posted all of his thought-provoking links in a Google doc for us if you want to dig deeper.

After rotating groups 4 times, I hosted a lovely group of lead teachers and a principal.  Sometimes you just meet people that you could spend the rest of your career working with, you know? We quickly leaped to identifying the ideal conditions for inquiry and how to support them in our schools.  To summarize, here is a quick overview of our work today.


Choice of role, audience, format and topic (RAFT) in any combination is empowering to students and immediately amps up the chance that this school work will be meaningful.  Giving students the knowledge and choice of individualizing privacy settings of their online work is a power that must be experienced to be understood.  With any amount of choice, we agreed that starting with small amounts and gradually releasing the students to greater independence was an essential method to encouraging independence.  Metacognition, reflection and self-regulation were all skills that we saw directly benefiting from giving students more choice in inquiry.


In order for students to take responsibility for their own learning, they need to be given the autonomy to make choices about what they will work on, and how they will work on it.


Access to learning opportunities needs to happen 24/7…this doesn’t mean that teachers need to be available all day every day, but their content should be online, and office hours outside of class time are minimal expectations.


This is the most challenging aspect of implementing inquiry-based learning.  In theory, inquiry will naturally occur through phases depending on student readiness.  In reality (in Ontario) they attend class 76 minutes for 89 days of a semester.  Can we accommodate students beyond the current system of time?  If so, how do we manage reporting?  I would like to build some more flexibility of time into our current day.  Here’s an idea: an inquiry pass….students can legitimately skip class in order to be productive in the library.

What do you think?  Are there things you would add or adjust?

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