Live 2 Learn

A few thoughts and ideas

Inquiry Learning and Habits of Mind

I think, therefore I'm dangersous

Image by John Eisenschenk

Over the last several months, my College has been working on ways to support student engagement, enduring understanding, and looking at ways to serve our students more effectively as they face a rapidly changing and unknown future as workers, learners and members of society. As a result, we are now building a teaching and learning approach which includes all the most effective and relevant parts of Inquiry Learning, Habits of Mind, Growth Mindset and many of the principles and methods presented by Marzano and his associates.

We have considered the pedagogical continuum that stretches from the most teacher-centric models of education through to the most student-centred methods of teaching and learning in the Primary and Secondary setting.

. We spent a while looking at the various flavors of Design Learning, Inquiry-based, Problem-based learning and Project-based learning. What we have landed on is a method which takes many of parts of the rationale for the Project-based movement, as demonstrated at High Tech High (See the movie Most Likely to Succeed) but presents them firmly as Inquiry Learning. This enables us to look at methods which utilise the innovation we need from the Inquiry Learning model while maximising the experience and passion of our existing staff, most of whom are not Inquiry trained.

As part of this process I have been modifying several of the College’s Teaching and Learning documents which guide and describe our practice. In part, this is to incorporate and guide our new teaching and learning process but also I need to frame the Inquiry Learning model that we are developing within the parts of our existing framework of methods and principles. Most recently I have been considering the relationship between Inquiry Learning, Growth Mindset, Habits of Mind and the various method, in particular Proficiency Scales, as found in the Marzano’s work.

What I have found, not surprisingly, is that when unpacking Inquiry Learning – particularly as described by Kath Murdoch (Her book The Power of Inquiry here) – many useful and complementary aspects of the Habits of Mind (Kallick & Costa here ), Growth Mindset (Dweck Wikipedia article here ), the design methodology contained in The Art and Science of Teaching and Marzano and Kendall’s New Taxonomony of Learning Objectives can be inferred and used in designing effective instruction.

As an example, the following is a list from Kath Murdoch’s book which appears on pages 21 to 24 in a table labelled ‘What do Inquiry Teachers do?’ I include with it the list of the Habits of Mind as published by Kallick and Costa. It is easy to see multiple ways of using Habits of Mind to enhance and even deliver elements of good Inquiry Learning as described by Murdoch.

Grab a coffee, sit back and consider how you think the Habits of Mind, used explicitly, can support the development of some great Inquiry Learning.

What do Inquiry Teachers do?
From K. Murdoch (The Power of Inquiry, 2015)
Habits of Mind
Create flexible and equitable learning environments where students exercise some choice and where independence is fostered. Persisting


Manage Impulsivity


Listening with Understanding and Empathy


Thinking Flexibly


Thinking about your Thinking (Metacognitions)


Striving for Accuracy


Questioning and Problem Posing


Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations


Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision


Gathering Data Through All the Senses


Creating, Imagining and Innovating


Responding with Wonderment and Awe


Taking Responsible Risks


Finding Humour


Thinking Interdependently


Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

Link investigations to authentic contexts and purposes, use what goes on in the classroom, school, and local and global communities to show students how learning applies to ‘real’ life right now.
Frame teaching around open-ended questions or problems, thereby putting students in the position of investigator/researcher. Students do the learning, they don’t have the learning ‘done’ to them.
Provoke, model and celebrate curiosity. Build in time for students to raise and explore questions meaningful to them. Help students see that questions are a sign of great thinking, not of ignorance.
Allow time for students to figure it out for themselves (flip the lesson).
Use probing questions and thinking prompts as much as possible as teaching tools, so that students do more thinking for themselves more of the time.
Invite students to raise questions/wonderings throughout a lesson and use their questions as a springboard for teaching. Asking questions is a sign of good thinking not a sign of ignorance.
Involve students in making some decisions about aspects of the learning experience, even within a lesson. A student voice in decision making is a key feature of Inquiry Learning.
Use a layered or spilt screen approach to the lesson. (ie focusing not just on what is being learned, but also how the learning is happening).
Use transferable routines and strategies within the lesson. This in itself demonstrates the higher levels of a proficiency scale designed to measure enduring understanding
Help students make connections between ideas, between subjects, between inquiries. Making connections builds understanding
Be open to unexpected pathways for inquiry
Access students’ prior learning and make the process of constructing understanding as explicit as possible.
Allow some open-ended exploration time. This includes some elements of play. Students explore mathematical manipulatives, play with new musical instruments, skim through text before starting detailed study etc.
Limit whole class instruction. Structure lessons so that the bulk of teaching is done with small groups and individuals. When teaching the whole class ensure these periods are brief and focused.
Encourage students to do the talking and thinking rather than doing it for them.
Build reflective thinking into the daily routine. Teachers and students should become habitually reflective
Consider the task students are doing as learning strategies rather than activities. Make sure students know why they are doing what they are doing.
To foster ownership and curiosity, provide opportunities for personal learning pathways.
Be an inquiry learner yourself. Show students that you are a learner too; show fascination, engagement and a hunger to learn.


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