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What is inquiry learning?

One pedagogical approach to teaching and learning that many schools use is inquiry learning. Inquiry learning can take many forms, for example, integrated curriculum, issue/problem based, action led, negotiated or play based inquiry. Inquiry is characterised by students:
  • asking questions, building on prior knowledge and making their own discoveries
  • finding out information from primary sources to answer generative questions and develop deep conceptual understandings
  • making connections between ideas, learning domains and experiences.

The benefits of using an inquiry (integrated, discipline/subject-based and extended) are significant because this approach:
  • considers the connections across learning areas, as well as the way that individual students learn
  • allows learning to be more relevant, as concepts are learned in context and relate to existing knowledge
  • requires that content is relevant, integrating multiple aspects/concepts simultaneously
  • assists in the management of a crowded curriculum as it combines a number of expected outcomes into rich assessment tasks whilst enabling skills to be developed in context and across domains
  • provides students with meaningful links between activities, rather than jumping from ‘subject’ to ‘subject’ with little contextual relevance
  • supports students to become autonomous learners.
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What are the implications for planning?

Student interests, needs and questions inform teachers of the appropriate teaching and learning experiences that are required for particular cohorts of students and are central in the unit planning process.
This has implications for whole school planning. If, for example, narrowly defined and inflexible topics are defined for particular year levels, student interests, questions, prior knowledge, needs, findings and proposals may not be able to be taken into account during the planning, monitoring and implementation of units. The unit direction may not be flexible to respond to students and allow for the appropriate development of deep understandings, interdisciplinary skills and authentic action to be taken.
In determining the type of whole school planning that will support an inquiry learning approach schools have:
  • developed planners that span two years or a __scope and sequence__ chart of topics or concepts identifying the appropriate conceptual ideas important for students to learn
  • developed a spiral curriculum or throughlines to determine what key conceptual ideas should be developed throughout the school
  • supported opportunities where teachers and students negotiate the units of work to be undertaken.

Example of a whole school curriculum plan:

Whole School Curriculum Plan
Whole School Curriculum Plan

Google Search - Whole school planning NZ - http://tiny.cc/bfQUe

Jan Marie Kellow talks about Inquiry Based Learning: