Inquiry Based Learning

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To get an introduction to Inquiry by Pippa Davies watch this video here.

To learn more about research and digital citizenship go to this page.


The new BCEDplan incorporates Inquiry as a means of helping our students move into the next chapter of learning.  I had always thought there was just one type of inquiry based learning, but was fascinated by the breakdown as shared by the Galileo foundation of learning in Alberta.  There are in fact three types of Inquiry learning.  They include the Universal inquiry model, Minimally guided model and the Discipline-based model.

It is in the Universal Inquiry model  where students enjoy hands on learning, actively creating, sharing their learning with the world as opposed to passively learning the information.  As our students become junior detectives we can take a step back and let them become the experts which helps them move towards the deeper content, while learning technology to enhance understanding.  Learning how to capture our student’s voice digitally will bring confidence and an ability to enhance their learning.  Watch this great video under universal inquiry from the Galileo model to gain an understanding of the teacher role and student role.

How can we do this in our homeschooling environment:

  1.  Take advantage of all the amazing resources we have collated for you on Overdrive and L4U and tie into their natural questions and passions.  These include Capstone Publications, and inquiry based picture books.
  2. Work with your teacher to help outline the projects and allow for deeper level of learning.  Some of the project based learning workbooks will allow for this inquiry model but will still require active student engagement.
  3.  Choose one of our science or social study kits to find wondering questions, activities and projects.
  4. Choose a theme by finding an interest for your primary student using picture books, both fiction and non-fiction.  For example if you wanted to start the school off learning about apples read some books about apples.  Learn math by cutting apples into sections and percentages.  Learn about seasonal changes that go with apples and fall.  Write a recipe for apple sauce.
  5. Contact Pippa or Cynthia so we can help your students develop a model for their projects and presentations.
  6. Take your students on field trips so they can explore the experts on their topic or contact the expert via mail or Skype.
  7.  As your student engages in the research process you can encourage them to journal about their research using Google docs, or  Explora and the tool My Folder.  Encourage your student to identify three topics that interest them.  Help your student to identify with what interests them and how it can perhaps help others in their research.  Identify what they know and what they need to know more about. Then get your student to write down three questions they need to know more about.  Debate the titles and the keywords with a teacher librarian or teacher.  Discuss search engines and databases that could be useful.  Lastly assess for content, validity of sources and sense of accomplishment and interest.


The second method of Inquiry is called the Minimally Guided Theory or MakerEd as we call it in our learning commons.  Minimally guided means as the words imply that the student comes up with his or her own student driven questions which provoke natural curiosity and drive learning.  Students learn concepts without being taught them per say.  So an example might be asking a student to design a bridge or a boat which floats.  They would research the topic and present their own findings based on what they were trying to prove in their essential question.  The teacher really takes a back seat in this learning, maybe just presenting one idea and then letting the student discover and research the rest.  It can be messy 🙂

How do we do this in a homeschooling environment?

  1. Find out what things your student would like to make based on the big ideas in the curriculum.  Chat with your teacher to define that learning and what it might look like?
  2. Check out the amazing resources we have on Overdrive under our MakerEd tab  to read and help your student find an essential question that pertains to making something or designing something.
  3. Watch this webinar on the basics of MakerEd
  4. Read the book Invent to Learn on Overdrive which outlines the history of making and the pedagogy behind it.
  5. Borrow some of our MakerEd materials from the learning commons or go to this page to get some ideas as to how they might fit your student’s learning.
  6. Work with another family who has the same interests as your student to learn together.
  7. Tie into learning at a community connection centre,  learning camp, virtual inquiry book clubs or Genius Hour club


The last means of inquiry is called Discipline-based Inquiry. This approach takes into consideration that deeper learning can only happen when students are learning what they really can tie into topics that are meaningful to them.  Here teachers ask the guiding questions which will elicit responses from a statement or opinion or hook.  Many teachers might understand this as Socratic learning, where both teacher and student work together to push learning and dialogue towards meaningful thoughts.

“Key Renaissance figures such as Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci were emblematic of a quest for knowledge that spread to the rest of Europe in the late 16th century spurred on through the creation of new technologies, eg. microscope, telescope, printing press, etc. This spirit of inquiry and scientific discovery took hold on a wider scale during the European Enlightenment beginning in the 18th century.”  ¹

How do we help students learn more about discipline based inquiry?

  1. We learn to ask more open ended questions to get our students sharing.  We use questions such as How would you, what would result if you, how would you describe, compare with, what is the relationship between, how could you change, how would you improve, and how do you feel, what is your opinion, what would you do differently, what choice would you have taken. Questions should have deep meaning to the student. may not have one answer and will require research.
  2. Find issues which are pertinent to your community.
  3. Help your student tie into some real authentic learning relevant to their grade and interest, or gifting.
  4. Students are encouraged to spend more lab time, studio work, construction time or interviewing time to capture data.
  5. Encourage students to use technology to help them present and exhibit their work.
  6. Get your student connected with an expert in the field of his or her topic.
  7. Find ways to help your students communicate about their learning whether it be podcasting, or writing a blog post etc.

To discover more about the different types of Inquiry on Overdrive you can go to the following curated tabs:

Inquiry Picture books under Teacher Lounge tab– this extensive list of beautiful picture books from Down Publications (some of which are narrated) will tie into wonderful question starters and perhaps elicit a project based/interdisciplinary theme.  Our lovely Capstone non fiction books for primary age students will keep your students enraptured. The project based workbooks from Classroom Complete Press will allow you to help your students develop critical thinking skills.

MakerEd/Project Based Learning– these books and magazines will give you a head start planning projects for your students, including robotics and designing using technology.

Kits – all of our new kits will include inquiry based activities for your student to find an activity that meets their needs.  You can find all of our curriculum kits curated on our website here.

Professional Development– we have curated many Inquiry and MakerEd books on Overdrive  including

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

Guided Inquiry by Carol Kuhlthau

Science as Inquiry by Jack Hassard

The Art of Inquiry by Nancy Lee Cecil

In L4U we have the following books

Invent to Learn by Sylvia Lebow Martinez

Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein


¹ Dimensions of Discipline Based Inquiry.” Focus on Inquiry. Galileo Educational Network, 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

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