MYP Inquiry (09/15)

This week some thoughts about inquiry learning.

Inquiry + Learning = Action?


Many teachers are including in their practice the art of asking questions. Often without even being fully aware of it, or just so used to it that it is second nature. I had the pleasure to attend a workshop on Inquiry this summer and to be introduced to the work of Alan Colburn. It was refreshing to have presented effectively and in simple terms what the different levels of inquiry are. From confirmation to open inquiry there are 4 distinct levels described as follow:

Confirmation Inquiry

Students are given a step-by-step procedure, including diagrams, for making a product or coming to a conclusion or answer to a question.  The results are known in advance and it helps the student to work through operational procedures

Structured Inquiry

Students are given a step-by-step procedure, including diagrams, for making a product.  Questions prompt students to experiment and record their observations as they work through the inquiry. Students generate an explanation supported by the evidence that they have collected. 

Guided Inquiry

Students are given all of the materials necessary for an inquiry and the question that they have to answer. The students design the procedure and test the question, record data, explain their results and evaluate their method.  Teacher acts as a facilitator in this inquiry

Open Inquiry

Students come up with the questions, design and carry out the investigation and communicate their results.  This level can culminate from experiences in the first three.

Alan Colburn 2008 “An Inquiry Primer - The Many Levels of Inquiry”


In the Middle Years Programme, the Learning Cycle happens by having the students develop inquiries about real world contexts. That is the reason and the meaning behind the Statement of Inquiry being broken down in factual, debatable, and conceptual questions as found in the unit planner. In this cycle, students are involved in activities that introduce new concepts in context. Students transfer, over time, the knowledge and skill of the concept through application in different contexts or situations.

How to do real world contexts inquiry?  Simply said: students will 1- Access their prior knowledge, 2- Build further their knowledge, 3- Consolidate their knowledge, 4- Reflect on their new knowledge. It is us teachers that assess, decide, and facilitate which level of inquiry we want to use with them.


As we are embarking with our collaborative teams next week on our inquiry journey, I wish you all: Happy questioning!



Johnston Heights IB MYP Coodinator