There are many inquiry learning strategies and approaches. In particular, guided inquiry provides a framework for collaboration between teachers and library staff to support students through their inquiry-based learning.

Inquiry learning across your whole school

Inquiry-based learning becomes a powerful force for learning when embraced by the whole school, including the library.

When you develop an approach to inquiry learning, consider how it will:

  • reflect your school community
  • meet the needs of your learners
  • establish a common language
  • create a consistent learning environment for your students, and
  • take into account the vision, principles, values and key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.

Models for inquiry learning

A wide range of inquiry learning models exist. Some are developed by individual schools to meet their specific needs. Others are more universal and adapatable.

  • Guided inquiry as a model for inquiry learning

    Guided inquiry provides a framework for collaborations between school library staff and teachers. Working together, school library staff and teachers can:

    • plan an inquiry project
    • provide a range of rich resources to inspire and inform inquiry on a topic
    • support students to deal with the avalanche of information they can access, especially online
    • work with students across all phases of inquiry.

    The 8 stages of guided inquiry

    Guided inquiry leads students through 8 stages or phases in their learning.

    1. Open: an invitation to inquiry
    2. Immerse: build background knowledge
    3. Explore: explore ideas that interest the students
    4. Identify: identify an inquiry question and decide a direction for the inquiry
    5. Gather: find information from a broad range of sources and think about it broadly and deeply
    6. Create: reflect on, make meaning and create communications from the information
    7. Share: present the learning and learn from others
    8. Evaluate: assess what was learned and whether learning goals were achieved, and reflect on the content and process.

    Guided Inquiry Design — Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari are advocates for guided inquiry

    Kuhlthau, Carol C, Maniotes, Leslie K, Caspari, Ann K (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing

    Resources students need and how they feel during guided inquiry

    The following table summarises the resources or tools students need during each phase of guided inquiry and how their feelings change as their work progresses. Students may particularly need a teacher or librarian’s support during the explore, gather and create phases.

    Phase Resources Students' feelings

    Open

    inquiry plan

    interest

    Immerse

    co-planning tools

    curiosity

    Explore

    general information

    uncertainty

    Identify

    fertile questions

    optimism

    Gather

    general to specialist information

    confusion, frustration, doubt

    Create

    high interest information

    clarity, a sense of direction, confidence

    Share

    presentation tools

    satisfaction or disappointment

    Evaluate

    evaluation tools

    reflection

    Benefits of guided inquiry

    The benefits of guided inquiry include the way it:

    • starts with compelling situations and meaningful questions
    • involves authentic activities where students engage in problem solving and critical thinking
    • enables students to choose the questions they explore and how they present information
    • resembles the ways people develop and use knowledge outside the classroom.

    It benefits students’ learning by helping them to:

    • use diverse information sources to build new understanding
    • have ongoing conversations with teachers and library staff
    • feel valued, supported and acknowledged in their learning
    • practice new skills which encourage them to continue learning.
  • Guided inquiry as a model for inquiry learning

    Guided inquiry provides a framework for collaborations between school library staff and teachers. Working together, school library staff and teachers can:

    • plan an inquiry project
    • provide a range of rich resources to inspire and inform inquiry on a topic
    • support students to deal with the avalanche of information they can access, especially online
    • work with students across all phases of inquiry.

    The 8 stages of guided inquiry

    Guided inquiry leads students through 8 stages or phases in their learning.

    1. Open: an invitation to inquiry
    2. Immerse: build background knowledge
    3. Explore: explore ideas that interest the students
    4. Identify: identify an inquiry question and decide a direction for the inquiry
    5. Gather: find information from a broad range of sources and think about it broadly and deeply
    6. Create: reflect on, make meaning and create communications from the information
    7. Share: present the learning and learn from others
    8. Evaluate: assess what was learned and whether learning goals were achieved, and reflect on the content and process.

    Guided Inquiry Design — Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari are advocates for guided inquiry

    Kuhlthau, Carol C, Maniotes, Leslie K, Caspari, Ann K (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing

    Resources students need and how they feel during guided inquiry

    The following table summarises the resources or tools students need during each phase of guided inquiry and how their feelings change as their work progresses. Students may particularly need a teacher or librarian’s support during the explore, gather and create phases.

    Phase Resources Students' feelings

    Open

    inquiry plan

    interest

    Immerse

    co-planning tools

    curiosity

    Explore

    general information

    uncertainty

    Identify

    fertile questions

    optimism

    Gather

    general to specialist information

    confusion, frustration, doubt

    Create

    high interest information

    clarity, a sense of direction, confidence

    Share

    presentation tools

    satisfaction or disappointment

    Evaluate

    evaluation tools

    reflection

    Benefits of guided inquiry

    The benefits of guided inquiry include the way it:

    • starts with compelling situations and meaningful questions
    • involves authentic activities where students engage in problem solving and critical thinking
    • enables students to choose the questions they explore and how they present information
    • resembles the ways people develop and use knowledge outside the classroom.

    It benefits students’ learning by helping them to:

    • use diverse information sources to build new understanding
    • have ongoing conversations with teachers and library staff
    • feel valued, supported and acknowledged in their learning
    • practice new skills which encourage them to continue learning.
  • Other examples of inquiry learning models

    Models used in New Zealand Schools

    The Inquiry Learning Process: Ponsonby Primary School (pdf) — has a 7-step process beginning with a ‘big idea’ and ending with reflection.

    Bucklands Beach Intermediate School — has a 6-step model that aims to help students explore how they make sense of whatever they learn.

    Sylvia Park School inquiry framework — is working to develop a connected and integrated curriculum through inquiry.

    Some international models

    This list provides a starting point for you to explore frameworks of inquiry that may suit your school.

    Learning assets workshop — an inquiry model presented and developed by Australian educator, Kath Murdoch

    Inquiry–based learning: the Stripling inquiry model — a model in 6 steps created by American educator, Barbara Stripling

    Big 6 skills overview — developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, the Big 6 is the most widely known and used approach to teaching information and technology skills

    Project-based learning — encourages students to explore real-world problems and challenges them to gain deeper knowledge

    Genius hour — developed by Google and others, this model encourages students to follow their passions by choosing what they learn during a set period of time during school

    Design thinking — resources that offer a variety of ways for students to tackle real-world problems in inquiry-based learning

    A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry — the spiral of inquiry is a common model used in some New Zealand schools

  • Other examples of inquiry learning models

    Models used in New Zealand Schools

    The Inquiry Learning Process: Ponsonby Primary School (pdf) — has a 7-step process beginning with a ‘big idea’ and ending with reflection.

    Bucklands Beach Intermediate School — has a 6-step model that aims to help students explore how they make sense of whatever they learn.

    Sylvia Park School inquiry framework — is working to develop a connected and integrated curriculum through inquiry.

    Some international models

    This list provides a starting point for you to explore frameworks of inquiry that may suit your school.

    Learning assets workshop — an inquiry model presented and developed by Australian educator, Kath Murdoch

    Inquiry–based learning: the Stripling inquiry model — a model in 6 steps created by American educator, Barbara Stripling

    Big 6 skills overview — developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, the Big 6 is the most widely known and used approach to teaching information and technology skills

    Project-based learning — encourages students to explore real-world problems and challenges them to gain deeper knowledge

    Genius hour — developed by Google and others, this model encourages students to follow their passions by choosing what they learn during a set period of time during school

    Design thinking — resources that offer a variety of ways for students to tackle real-world problems in inquiry-based learning

    A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry — the spiral of inquiry is a common model used in some New Zealand schools

  • Building skills for inquiry learning

    There are 5 main skills that teachers and students need for effective inquiry learning:

    • collaboration — involving all staff in the school
    • engagement — getting students to ask the right questions
    • information skills — finding, evaluating, using and creating information
    • thinking — encouraging creative, critical and collaborative thinking
    • assessment — which takes place throughout the inquiry cycle.
  • Collaborating for inquiry success

    Through collaborations, a common approach to inquiry is established across your school and the process is reinforced both in and out of the classroom.

    All staff, including librarians can:

    • jointly plan units of inquiry
    • co-teach or facilitate units of inquiry to be an additional 'guide on the side' to students
    • participate in school-wide, long-term planning
    • assist in developing or adopting a school-wide inquiry framework
    • discuss assessment information to identify skills or parts of the inquiry cycle that need extra support.
    When knowledge is shared, lessons or programmes can be jointly planned, with mutual understanding and a common terminology.
    — James Herring 'Improving students' web use and information literacy'
  • Collaborating for inquiry success

    Through collaborations, a common approach to inquiry is established across your school and the process is reinforced both in and out of the classroom.

    All staff, including librarians can:

    • jointly plan units of inquiry
    • co-teach or facilitate units of inquiry to be an additional 'guide on the side' to students
    • participate in school-wide, long-term planning
    • assist in developing or adopting a school-wide inquiry framework
    • discuss assessment information to identify skills or parts of the inquiry cycle that need extra support.
    When knowledge is shared, lessons or programmes can be jointly planned, with mutual understanding and a common terminology.
    — James Herring 'Improving students' web use and information literacy'
  • Engaging students in inquiry learning — essential or fertile questions

    Planning for inquiry-based learning begins with a context for study and an essential or fertile question.

    A context for study could be:

    • current issues
    • local or global events
    • issues in the school community or wider community
    • a topic that particularly interests students
    • the needs of the curriculum.

    Fertile questions are:

    • open — there are several different or competing answers, any of which might be acceptable
    • undermining — they make the student question their assumptions
    • rich — they cannot be answered without careful exploration and there may be subsidiary questions
    • connected — relevant in some way to the student
    • charged — they have an ethical or emotional aspect
    • practical — the student can research them using the available resources.

    In Socrates’ words, ‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.’

    An essential or fertile question can be decided by the teacher or the students themselves. For example, to inspire curiosity, the topic of celebrations could be re-framed as, 'Why are celebrations important?'

    All about writing essential questions (pdf) — compiled by the Public Schools of Robeson County, North Carolina, USA

    Inquiry-based learning: the power of asking the right questions — a blog by Georgia K. Mathis on Edutopia

    What are essential questions? — by Leslie Owen Wilson on The Second Principle

    A giant list of really good essential questions — compiled by Teachthought

    Teaching and learning in a community of thinking (pdf) — article by Yoram Harpaz in Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Winter 2005 (fertile questions are discussed on page 10)

  • Engaging students in inquiry learning — essential or fertile questions

    Planning for inquiry-based learning begins with a context for study and an essential or fertile question.

    A context for study could be:

    • current issues
    • local or global events
    • issues in the school community or wider community
    • a topic that particularly interests students
    • the needs of the curriculum.

    Fertile questions are:

    • open — there are several different or competing answers, any of which might be acceptable
    • undermining — they make the student question their assumptions
    • rich — they cannot be answered without careful exploration and there may be subsidiary questions
    • connected — relevant in some way to the student
    • charged — they have an ethical or emotional aspect
    • practical — the student can research them using the available resources.

    In Socrates’ words, ‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.’

    An essential or fertile question can be decided by the teacher or the students themselves. For example, to inspire curiosity, the topic of celebrations could be re-framed as, 'Why are celebrations important?'

    All about writing essential questions (pdf) — compiled by the Public Schools of Robeson County, North Carolina, USA

    Inquiry-based learning: the power of asking the right questions — a blog by Georgia K. Mathis on Edutopia

    What are essential questions? — by Leslie Owen Wilson on The Second Principle

    A giant list of really good essential questions — compiled by Teachthought

    Teaching and learning in a community of thinking (pdf) — article by Yoram Harpaz in Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Winter 2005 (fertile questions are discussed on page 10)

  • Key information skills

    Through inquiry learning, students develop specific information skills, including:

    • strategies to find information that is fit for purpose
    • information literacy, critical literacy and digital literacy
    • content curation — using insight to add value to the information they collect
    • the ethical use of others' work — copyright and plagiarism.

    Curating content

    Copyright and Creative Commons

    Digital content: finding, evaluating, using, and creating it

  • Key information skills

    Through inquiry learning, students develop specific information skills, including:

    • strategies to find information that is fit for purpose
    • information literacy, critical literacy and digital literacy
    • content curation — using insight to add value to the information they collect
    • the ethical use of others' work — copyright and plagiarism.

    Curating content

    Copyright and Creative Commons

    Digital content: finding, evaluating, using, and creating it

  • Creative, critical and collaborative thinking

    Thinking is essential for, and developed by, inquiry-based learning. Creative, critical and collaborative thinking are also important to becoming a life-long learner.

    There are several aspects to thinking when used in inquiry-based learning:

    • techniques and strategies to develop efficient and precise thinking
    • attitudes to effectively link thinking, skills and action
    • understanding, connecting and applying concepts to new contexts
    • thinking about thinking, sometimes called metacognition, refers to planning for a task, monitoring progress, evaluating and reflecting.

    Thinking and metacognition — focused on English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) learners, but the information applies to all learners.

    Edward de Bono has developed tools to help teach thinking skills.

    Six thinking hats

    Cognitive Research Trust (CoRT) Thinking

    Art Costa's Habits of Mind helps you know how to behave intelligently when you don’t know the answer to a question.

    Habits of mind

  • Creative, critical and collaborative thinking

    Thinking is essential for, and developed by, inquiry-based learning. Creative, critical and collaborative thinking are also important to becoming a life-long learner.

    There are several aspects to thinking when used in inquiry-based learning:

    • techniques and strategies to develop efficient and precise thinking
    • attitudes to effectively link thinking, skills and action
    • understanding, connecting and applying concepts to new contexts
    • thinking about thinking, sometimes called metacognition, refers to planning for a task, monitoring progress, evaluating and reflecting.

    Thinking and metacognition — focused on English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) learners, but the information applies to all learners.

    Edward de Bono has developed tools to help teach thinking skills.

    Six thinking hats

    Cognitive Research Trust (CoRT) Thinking

    Art Costa's Habits of Mind helps you know how to behave intelligently when you don’t know the answer to a question.

    Habits of mind

  • Assessment throughout inquiry

    Because inquiry focuses on the process of learning as much as the final product or presentation, assessment takes place throughout the inquiry learning cycle.

    The assessment may be:

    • formative — for example, teacher observations, checklists, rubrics, learning goals or conferencing
    • summative — teachers make an assessment of the final product or presentation in relation to a particular task, skill or learning disposition
    • self-assessment — students are able to become self-monitoring, independent learners
    • peer-assessment — students assess and provide feedback to each other.

    Focus on inquiry: the importance of assessment (chapter 3) — a guide from the Galileo Educational Network

    Assessment in inquiry-based learning — a guide from Ophea in Ontario, Canada

    You can measure levels of thinking or understanding using a taxonomy, such as Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) or Bloom’s Taxonomy. These help teachers to work out the level of higher-order thinking reached by the student.

    Bloom's taxonomy

    SOLO taxonomy

  • Assessment throughout inquiry

    Because inquiry focuses on the process of learning as much as the final product or presentation, assessment takes place throughout the inquiry learning cycle.

    The assessment may be:

    • formative — for example, teacher observations, checklists, rubrics, learning goals or conferencing
    • summative — teachers make an assessment of the final product or presentation in relation to a particular task, skill or learning disposition
    • self-assessment — students are able to become self-monitoring, independent learners
    • peer-assessment — students assess and provide feedback to each other.

    Focus on inquiry: the importance of assessment (chapter 3) — a guide from the Galileo Educational Network

    Assessment in inquiry-based learning — a guide from Ophea in Ontario, Canada

    You can measure levels of thinking or understanding using a taxonomy, such as Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) or Bloom’s Taxonomy. These help teachers to work out the level of higher-order thinking reached by the student.

    Bloom's taxonomy

    SOLO taxonomy

  • Find out more

  • Resources from the National Library and Services to Schools

    Services to Schools and the National Library provide a range of resources to inspire and inform inquiry.

    Lending service — borrow from our extensive fiction, non-fiction and audiovisual collection

    Topic explorer — provides quality, curated resources for schools to inspire and inform inquiry

    EPIC — explore thousands of electronic resources covering all curriculum areas and including magazines, newspapers, encyclopaedias, images and more.

    DigitalNZ — provides access to about 25 million New Zealand digital items, including videos, audio, photographs and cartoons that you can use to create themed sets of items to share with colleagues and students.

    Papers Past — explore New Zealand history through old newspapers, letters, diaries, magazines and parliamentary papers.

    Index New Zealand (INNZ) — find historical or current information from journals, magazines and newspapers on a wide range of subjects.

    Exemplars and guides to support inquiry learning — the Ministry of Education and National Library have developed a 6-stage process to support World War 1 resources and Services to Schools offers a range of inquiry exemplars.

    Inquiry learning guide

    Our 'Resources for inquiry learning — a guide' outlines:

    • a range of resources and learning actions matched to the phases used in guided inquiry
    • some resources that support all phases of inquiry, including templates
    • graphic organisers, thinking maps and thinking tools that can be used in inquiry.

    Resources for inquiry learning — a guide (pdf, 229KB)

  • Resources from the National Library and Services to Schools

    Services to Schools and the National Library provide a range of resources to inspire and inform inquiry.

    Lending service — borrow from our extensive fiction, non-fiction and audiovisual collection

    Topic explorer — provides quality, curated resources for schools to inspire and inform inquiry

    EPIC — explore thousands of electronic resources covering all curriculum areas and including magazines, newspapers, encyclopaedias, images and more.

    DigitalNZ — provides access to about 25 million New Zealand digital items, including videos, audio, photographs and cartoons that you can use to create themed sets of items to share with colleagues and students.

    Papers Past — explore New Zealand history through old newspapers, letters, diaries, magazines and parliamentary papers.

    Index New Zealand (INNZ) — find historical or current information from journals, magazines and newspapers on a wide range of subjects.

    Exemplars and guides to support inquiry learning — the Ministry of Education and National Library have developed a 6-stage process to support World War 1 resources and Services to Schools offers a range of inquiry exemplars.

    Inquiry learning guide

    Our 'Resources for inquiry learning — a guide' outlines:

    • a range of resources and learning actions matched to the phases used in guided inquiry
    • some resources that support all phases of inquiry, including templates
    • graphic organisers, thinking maps and thinking tools that can be used in inquiry.

    Resources for inquiry learning — a guide (pdf, 229KB)

  • Resources for guided learning inquiry and other models

    Guided inquiry design — a 2016 presentation by Carol Kuhlthau for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information

    Inquiry-based learning — Edutopia

    Knowledge Quest. Making the shift: from traditional research assignments to guiding inquiry learning — Lesley Maniotes and Carol Kuhlthau 2014

    Planning using inquiry — provided by English Online, Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) this guide is targeted to secondary schools but has useful information for primary schools

    Approaches to social inquiry — building conceptual understandings in the social sciences (pdf) — provided by Social Sciences Online, TKI

    Kuhlthau, Carol C, Maniotes, Leslie K, Caspari, Ann K (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing

    Wallace, V., & Husid, W (2011). Collaborating for Inquiry-based learning: School librarians and classroom teachers partner for student achievement. Greenwood Publishing

    Scott, Kim (2010). An Inquiry Guide for Schools. Essential Resources Educational Publishers Ltd.

  • Resources for guided learning inquiry and other models

    Guided inquiry design — a 2016 presentation by Carol Kuhlthau for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information

    Inquiry-based learning — Edutopia

    Knowledge Quest. Making the shift: from traditional research assignments to guiding inquiry learning — Lesley Maniotes and Carol Kuhlthau 2014

    Planning using inquiry — provided by English Online, Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) this guide is targeted to secondary schools but has useful information for primary schools

    Approaches to social inquiry — building conceptual understandings in the social sciences (pdf) — provided by Social Sciences Online, TKI

    Kuhlthau, Carol C, Maniotes, Leslie K, Caspari, Ann K (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Greenwood Publishing

    Wallace, V., & Husid, W (2011). Collaborating for Inquiry-based learning: School librarians and classroom teachers partner for student achievement. Greenwood Publishing

    Scott, Kim (2010). An Inquiry Guide for Schools. Essential Resources Educational Publishers Ltd.