A New Way of Learning

by | May 24, 2023

Inquiry is not a fad. It’s not just the next thing. Education has trends that come and go, but inquiry learning is not like that. It is a core process that everyone benefits from knowing.

It’s not only a 21st century skill. Its how humans learn from information.

Its knowing when to dig for more information. 

It’s how we move from innocent assumptions onto deeper knowledge and understanding.

It’s how we question what we think we know, and break from our misconceptions of the world to a wider knowing.

The inquiry process includes the entire research process beyond just gathering facts. In the process people naturally move through phases from innocent curiosity to learning some background knowledge and then through their exploring and questioning they begin to seek deeper knowledge by digging deeper through research.

This process is one of personal creation of knowledge and understanding. In this way, it is a new way of learning.


Inquiry isn’t just another education trend.

If we want K-12 students to create original ideas, unique perspectives, and gain deeper understandings, then inquiry is the path educators should take to designing that learning.

Inquiry is not a fad, it’s a life skill.

Writers use inquiry to investigate topics for their writing. In order to write something that is believable, research is necessary. But first, you have to realize that you don’t know everything!  And so you seek knowledge out. Having an inquiry stance is a learned way of going through life that is driven by our innate curiosity as humans. It is fostered through learning how to find out about the questions we wonder about the world around us, how things work, and beyond. It is developed through taking what we learn and putting it to use in creating something to share with the world, like writers do.

Everyone uses this process in their life. It’s not a matter of if we use it. It’s only a matter of how the process of inquiry can serve each individual. Whether it’s related to work success, or travel or decide who to vote for, or enjoying digging into hobbies for deeper joy and life fulfillment, knowing the process, how to research and when it’s necessary to really dig deeper, is a true gift that enriches all of life.

Throw a topic in that equation and you’ll see what I mean. Gardening, fixing cars, knowing how to build something, about a community different from your own… I could go on and on. Try it yourself and you’ll see!

We at Guided Inquiry Design say that “Inquiry is a new kind of learning.”

Inquiry is only new in that it has yet to be adopted as a mainstay in schools. Most often, it is done when all the content is covered. All the tests are taken. All the standards accomplished.

It’s not widely seen as a way of learning, but more often a fun engaging project. In this information age, it has become essential knowledge to have.

We claim it’s new, but really, it’s not new at all. This is how humans learn from information. It goes back to the time of the ancients. Guided Inquiry Design is a new way of structuring inquiry in schools so that teachers an d librarians can design units of inquiry based on the process the students will move through. Knowing the Information Search Process (Kuhlthau 2004) and using GID to design learning experiences gives teachers the tools for success.  Successful inquiry is where every single student arrives at a topic to research that is grounded in their personal interests, comes from their own funds of knowledge and is connected to the learning objectives for the unit.

There are 40 years of research on this process that show us how students experience this process.  We know what emotions they have while learning, and how and when they need guidance through it. Guided Inquiry Design and all the strategies within it help educators to know how to apply the process to accomplish formal learning, within the school context.

What we know now.

It is correctly called “a new kind of learning” because we have finally cracked the shell of how to open up what we teach to allow student voice in the process.  Guided Inquiry Design has the keys to this. We know how to do it.

With GID, we can confidently say that now we know how to design inquiry learning so all students get to that transformational place of knowing.

We know inquiry can be used to accomplish standards based objectives.

We understand the importance of background knowledge to formulating a personally relevant meaningful focus.

We know the power of having something that internally motivates us, rather than doing school for the grade or the teacher.

Learning from inquiry not only helps us gain deep content knowledge, but helps us to come to know ourselves.

This is a new way of learning that can change lives.  

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