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 Inquiry Learning

Inquiry, as the leading pedagogical approach of the PYP, is recognized as allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning. Inquiry allows each student’s understanding of the world to develop in a manner and at a rate that is unique to that learner.

Inquiry, interpreted in the broadest sense, is the process initiated by the student or the teacher that moves the student from his or her current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding. Inquiry takes place at the knowing/not knowing intersection (Wells Lindfors 1999) and can take many forms, including:

•exploring, wondering and questioning
•experimenting and playing with possibilities
•making connections between previous learning and current learning
•making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens
•collecting data and reporting findings
•clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events
•deepening understanding through the application of a concept
•making and testing theories
•researching and seeking information
•taking and defending a position
•solving problems in a variety of ways

Inquiry involves an active engagement with the environment in an effort to make sense of the world, and consequent reflection on the connections between the experiences encountered and the information gathered. Inquiry involves the synthesis, analysis and manipulation of knowledge, whether through play or through more formally structured learning.

In the PYP, the lively, animated process of inquiry appears differently within different age ranges. The developmental range evident in a group of 5-year-olds can often be from 3 to 8 years. This demands that the teacher be a thoughtful participant in, and monitor of, the ongoing exploration and investigations that the students engage in or initiate. In particular, the teachers of the younger students need to be mindful of the role of the learning environment when presenting stimuli to the students, for them to wonder at, and be curious about, and to stimulate purposeful play. Many different forms of inquiry are recognized, based on students’ curiosity and on their wanting and needing to know more about the world. They are most successful when students’ questions and inquiries are genuine and have real significance in helping them progress to new levels of knowledge and understanding.

The most insightful inquiries, ones most likely to move the students’ understanding further, come from existing knowledge. The structure of the learning environment, including the home, the classroom, the school and the community, and the behavior modeled by others in that environment, particularly by the parent and the teacher, will lay down the knowledge foundation that will nurture meaningful participation and inquiry on the part of the students.

(The Primary Years Programme: A basis for practice, January, 2009)

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