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Find out how to use the He Tohu social inquiry resources. Our social inquiry resources support young people to explore contemporary issues related to how we live together, organise our society, and navigate social forces in Aotearoa.

The inquiry processes invite students to critically engage with these issues and to find ways to play an active role in shaping the well-being of their own communities.

Structure of the resources

The resources are structured around the social inquiry model most New Zealand teachers are familiar with.

Each resource begins with a key question (or 'big idea')

For example, the gender equality social inquiry's key question is:

Why does gender inequality exist in Aotearoa, and what can we do to change this?

The social inquiry sits within this question, exploring one component of it in depth.

Background information for teachers before you start

Each resource starts with background information that supports teachers to understand the broader context of the social inquiry and the issues the students will be exploring.

Background information for teachers gives an example of this information for the gender equality social inquiry resource.

Exploring social issues through 5 phases of inquiry

The heart of every social inquiry is a social issue. Social issues are issues significant to human society that combine some or all of these factors:

  • a core problem or combination of problems that impacts on people’s lives
  • an ethical dimension that invites students to explore values and perspectives
  • a need for solutions that have real-world applications.

When students engage emotionally with social issues and are willing to grapple with their complexity, they are on the path to becoming the “critical, active, informed, and responsible citizens” that The New Zealand Curriculum envisions.

Each resource has a page with suggested activities that take you through 5 phases of the social inquiry process:

  1. establishing the focus for learning
  2. finding out information
  3. exploring values and perspectives
  4. considering responses
  5. taking action.

Social inquiry activities gives an example for the gender equality social inquiry resource.

Supporting activities and resources

Each resource places a particular emphasis on one component of the social inquiry process, with additional teacher materials that focus on the 'how' and 'why' of the component rather than just suggesting ways for students to engage with it.

Exploring perspectives — teacher support gives an example for the gender equality resource.

Each social inquiry resource has a suite of other supporting activities and resources for teachers including:

  • visual-thinking resources — examples of visual language texts that can be used with social inquiry
  • change makers — people or groups who are working to make Aotearoa a better place
  • a cross-curricular activity — to encourage an integrated approach to learning
  • definitions of key terms — sample definitions of concepts used in the resources
  • more resources — other online material you can explore with your class.

Learn more about the social inquiry process

Approaches to social inquiry (TKI, pdf, 5.6MB) — more information from TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi) about ways that students can explore, connect, and revise key concepts.

What is a social inquiry (NZCER, pdf, 153KB) — further information on the social inquiry model by Bronwyn Wood (also available on the New Zealand Council for Educational Research website).

Teaching social studies for critical, active citizenship in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZCER) — edited by Michael Harcourt, Andrea Milligan and Bronwyn Woodmore. This book has more about teaching for active citizenship.

What is an essential question? (Big Ideas) — more about essential questions or big ideas.