The enquiry cycle

See 'try it' for an interactive diagram of the enquiry cycle

The Enquiring Minds cycle is a schematic way of plotting and carrying out any sort of enquiry-based activity. We have presented it as a wheel since we believe that students’ enquiries may well ‘cycle’ around in deeper and deeper levels of sophistication. The enquiry model is intended as a focus for teachers and students to use in order to visualise progress on any extended activity.

The four-stage enquiry model presented in this section is intended to allow teachers to develop the type of teaching and learning described in the previous section. Of course, it is quite possible to use this model in a way that does not allow students to develop a critical approach to knowledge. In the end, the success of an enquiry approach depends on the extent to which it allows students to be creators of knowledge which is relevant to them.

The Enquiring Minds cycle draws on existing approaches to enquiry-based learning and has been developed through our work with teachers and students in our partner schools. The cycle we present here prioritises four key (and overlapping) stages in order to foreground certain practices which we think are central in supporting the goal of developing students’ capacities to critically engage with and create knowledge starting from their own experiences, ideas and interests.

Additionally, Enquiring Minds aims to foster teaching and learning that does not simply stop at the stage of critique. In the following pages we explain what is happening at each stage of the cycle. The stage with the least detail is the final stage – communicating and presenting. This doesn’t mean it is unimportant. In fact, the most important thing is what students decide to do with the knowledge they produce. Our vision for the project is that students produce knowledge that makes a difference to their lives. What this might mean is impossible to predict in advance, since it depends on the specific nature of individual enquiries. However, we hope that teachers engage students in discussions about ‘really useful knowledge’.

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