Inquiry-based learning units for schools - Supporting diversity

Inquiry-based learning involves students working together to explore significant concepts and issues by using a process that supports collaboration, discussion and reflection.

To facilitate inquiry-based learning, teachers should first establish clear guidelines for group discussions. Teachers should consider and be sensitive to the needs of specific students when planning discussions and activities.

Suggested discussion guidelines

  • The teacher or a student poses a question to the group.
  • Students share their ideas by raising their hand and waiting their turn to speak.
  • Students listen attentively, focusing on what the speaker is saying. Only one person speaks at a time.
  • Students build on and connect ideas, adding to the ideas of others increases understanding for all.
  • Everyone has the right to be heard, to be given an opportunity to explain what they think and why they think it. Respect others and their ideas.
  • Students understand there may be no single correct answer. When exploring inquiry questions there may be many correct answers.
  • Remind students to give reasons for their responses. This provides a deeper understanding for everyone.

The teacher’s role

The teacher’s role in the inquiry process is to facilitate rather than contribute their own opinions or solutions. Teachers should model inquiry responses; ensure the discussion remains on track; and ask open, probing questions that will assist the group to reach a deeper understanding of the concepts under discussion.

Some sample questions could be:

  • Why do you think that?
  • Who can build on that idea?
  • In what ways are these ideas connected?
  • Does anyone disagree with that idea? Why?
  • Can you clarify your idea for the group?
  • Who has another idea/different suggestion?
  • Can we look at this in another way?
  • What more do we need to understand?
  • How can this help us to understand the issue at a deeper level?
  • Are there any key ideas that we may have left out?

Each lesson concludes with time for reflection. For students to reach deeper levels of understanding, it is important to allow them to consider the thinking and reasoning that has taken place during the discussion.

Planning for inquiry learning

The planning model for inquiry-based learning guides a process of investigation and discovery. Teachers facilitate active engagement with concepts and skills which allows for increased depth of understanding and critical thinking. The inquiry framework allows students to engage with learning and to explain, interpret, apply, have perspective and empathise.

Inquiry learning strategies include:

  • The big idea - formulating a question to explore.
  • Generative questions - posed by the teacher to generate thinking and discussion.
  • Tuning in - gathering prior knowledge and early thinking about the big idea.
  • Finding out - students gathering information to develop their thinking about the big idea.
  • Sorting out - making sense of, and presenting refined thinking by organising, analysing and communicating the information gathered.
  • Going further - revisiting questions, extending experiences and challenging assumptions.
  • Concluding and acting - defining what students think and know as a result of their investigations and how they will apply this new learning.

Inquiry-based learning units for schools – Supporting diversity

These units of work have been developed by teachers and use an inquiry based framework to investigate diversity in our schools and communities.

There are three units of work for each stage and each unit builds on the previous unit to help develop concepts and skills. Ideas from key learning areas are integrated within the units enabling them to be used as part of the classroom learning program. Suggested resources are listed in each unit to provide stimulus material for discussion.

Each activity, described in the units, takes approximately 45-60 minutes.

Teachers complete the three units within a stage over at least four weeks. Deep learning of concepts and ideas will occur when students have many opportunities to engage with key ideas through discussion and reflection over time.

Prior to using each unit, teachers will need to organise the resources selected from suggested resources within each unit.

Use the navigation in this section to explore inquiry based learning units for Early Stage 1 to Stage 5.

Some of this content has been adapted and reproduced with permission from Bullying. No Way!

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