Practice makes perfect

This blog comes from the work of Kath Murdoch and Trevor MacKenzie. It is not my work but rather a compilation of important points from reading The Power of Inquiry.


9 inquiry practices to implement in your classroom today.


  1. Start with questioning your practice
  • How well do I know my students as people? Do I know what interests them? Do I know what they are passionate about?
  • Am I an inquirer? Do my students see and hear my questions about the world? Do I wonder aloud? Do I show them what it means to be curious and passionate about learning? Do I explore and connect with the world?
  • Do my students know why they are doing what they are doing? Do I? Are my purposes clear and shared? Is it worth teaching?
  • Do my walls teach or simply display? What does my classroom say about what I value?
  • What do my students reveal to me? Do I use this evidence to inform my planning? Am I listening?
  • Am I teaching my students how to inquire? Do they know what they are learning about learning?
  • How do I give my students voice? Do they participate in devisions made about their learning? Do I hold all the power? Am I prepared to let go?

Once you’ve answered those questions start with small steps to putting things in place.

2. Start connecting and building community in the classroom:

  • Ask students to write a letter to you
  • Co-construct agreements
  • Play games that foster teamwork, connection and fun.
  • Set some class goals
  • Let students to get to know you


3. Create a space that nurtures curiosity and wonder

Cozy book corner – a cafe style area where students can curl up with a book

Mini art studio – containing art materials and supplies, and work in progress

Wonderwall – this can be a permanent fixture in the room that is used and reused for different inquiries. Display students’ names and/ or photos on the wall under which they can post their questions

Video booth – movie-making, viewing and editing area.

The cave – a place to retreat to, to work alone or when something requires intense concentration.

Question of the day – reserve a space in the room to write an intriguing question of the day. These questions are generally open ended for example: Is it better to be a kid of a grownup? 


4. Let the walls teach. This could include:

  • menus of strategies students have learned; these can be referred to and built on throughout the year
  • agreements and routines
  • essential questions for inquiry
  • work in progress (it’s okay for it to not look perfect!)
  • criteria for tasks that have been developed with students


5. Decide on a type of inquiry:

  • Do you want to start with the end in mind? For example do you have a project such as a school art exhibition you want the children to be involved in? If so, start with a project orientated inquiry. Students are given a project and the inquiry is into how they might go about that. An example could be students design a website to promote the school. The inquiry question could be: How do we communicate our learning at school to others in the wider and global community?
  • Philosophical inquiry:  How well do your family know you? Can we be happy and sad at the same time? These questions go directly to the source of what it means to be human while children explore their values or beliefs.
  • Problem based inquiry occurs when you realise you have a problem that needs fixing. How can we deal with bullying at our school? How can we make a difference to children in developing countries?


6. Clarify intentions

Regardless of the context or starting point clarity of the intention is vital.

What is it we hope students will come to understand more deeply through this inquiry?

What knowledge might they need to help them to move towards this understanding?

What is it we hope students will be able to do more competently?

What learning dispositions will this inquiry help students practice and develop further? Or in our St Luke’s context – what pillars?

7. Use strategies and routines to generate different kinds of questions

Encourage a range of of questioning techniques in the classroom

You could use the question matrix attached:


Ask the author / picture – give students the opportunity for students to ask questions about what they are reading or viewing.

Splurge then refine – Give students 10 minutes to write down every possible question they can think of and then ask them to join others to sift and sort.

Question the answer – The answer is 32. What is the question?


8. Get the cycle right – but not straight

A broad cycle of inquiry assists teachers in knowing what to expect. An example could be:

Framing the inquiry

Tuning in

Finding Out

Sorting Out

Going further

Reflecting and acting

Remember the cycle is not linear so it could be completed as a whole within one lesson and the next you could be back at tuning in. Listen to the children and were they are at in the process.



9. Try a triple split screen

Learning about… (content)

How do the properties of materials affect their use?

Learning to… (skill)

As collaborators, how can we better manage diverse opinions and come to agreement?

Learning to be… (disposition)

How can empathy help us work more effectively with others?


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