To make the most of the planning process in my junior school class, I have devised a a list of points to consider when looking at an inquiry topic.

This list came about after an examination of inquiry topics that I had taught with my Grade Four class in 2009.  I also found inspiration in the book “Inquiry Circles in Action” by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.

Before developing a new inquiry, I believe I should look at previous inquiry units with a critical eye. I aim to improve design of the new unit by tossing out old, bad practice of my inquiry teaching and enhancing the good stuff.

When to use the checklist?  I find it most useful when surveying the planning document before teaching the unit.  I also find it useful during the course of the unit.

Does the inquiry show:

  • Differentiation
    • in the plan
    • in practice
  • Kids’ own questions are central within the inquiry
  • The topic is authentic, significant and relevant
  • Thinking is at the centre of each activity
  • Kids get to take a critical stance with an issue
  • Kids take responsibility for their learning
  • Kids take responsibility for something in their world
  • Collaborative skills are taught
  • Kids get to challenge/question a text
  • Kids get to use language to persuade about an issue
  • Essential literacy skills are developed
  • The student voice is apparent
  • Kids have created knowledge, built up from their own prior understandings
  • Multimodal learning – kids have used and created non-print texts
  • The inquiry has a real purpose and audience
  • Kids have opportunities for caring and taking action
  • Kids have used disciplinary tools, such as microscopes, surveys, timelines
  • Teacher has continuously modelled the Inquiry Process
  • Beyond the ‘facts’ phase, kids get to ask ‘So What?’
  • Kids’ questioning is continuous
  • Kids’  choice enhances differentiation
  • the inquiry develops global awareness and a social conscience


  1. Great post Brette – and very timely for me. I have just updated my goals for the second half of 2010 and decided to focus on student-centered learning – improving student reflection, responsibility for their own learning and collecting evidence of improvement. This post has given me some ideas as to how I might achieve those goals. I think it applies equally to Year 6/7 students in maths and science. Keep up the great posts! Regards, Britt Gow

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