St Bernadette’s School, Forbury

Phone/Fax: 03 455 7408 - Email: - 16 Forbury Road, Forbury, Dunedin 9012

We Believe, We Care, We Learn

Inquiry Learning

Inquiry Learning covers all areas of the St Bernadette's curriculum, but emphasis is given to the following curriculum areas as they are particularly suited to Inquiry Learning: 

· Social Sciences

· Science

· Health and Physical Education

· The Arts

· Technology

 There are times when particular topics ‘need’ to be taught within these 5 areas at a particular time when, seemingly, outside the particularly Inquiry topic. At St Bernadette’s we have no hesitation including these ‘mini units’ when the need arises. These can be run concurrently, or offer a short break from the Inquiry topic.

For example: ANZAC Day (April)  Water Safety (around a swimming block)  The Treaty of Waitangi

· English and Mathematics can be incorporated into the Inquiry Theme. They are certainly areas of Context, but for the most part they are stand alone areas. In every aspect of English it is ideal to incorporate the inquiry topic as it offers PURPOSE, RELEVANCE, INTEREST and PRIOR KNOWLEDGE. At St Bernadette’s we consider this connection to be an impelling reason for Inquiry Learning.

· Maori (Te Reo and Tikanga) is integrated into Inquiry whenever possible.

· Religious Education is ideal for Inquiry, particularly in topics encompassing Health & PE.

Our Current Inquiry Unit

Use this link to download the current school inquiry topic

Term 2 2016  'Pack It'

Why Inquiry

Particular skills to challenge and extend St Bernadette’s students through Inquiry Learning include: 

· Reflecting on the interdependence between all aspects of life in the real world.

· Challenging students to develop their thinking skills.

· Catering for individual learning styles.

· Managing an increasing crowded curriculum.  

· Making more sense of the school day by linking activities.

· Providing students with a greater degree of control over their learning.

· Encouraging staff to plan and work as a team.

· Enabling students to transfer knowledge and skills across experiences.

· Linking purposes with activities more explicitly.

· Enriching understanding, enjoyment and reflection in learning and teaching.


What are the benefits of Inquiry?

Students take ownership of the learning. 

· Children are given flexibility and a responsibility. (Through guidance and encouragement)

· They see a real purpose in what they are learning.

· They are directly involved in the gathering of the information.

· They process information in a range of ways.

· They can have a choice in following opportunities of interest.

· Students are given time to reflect on their learning.



Which Inquiry model do we use at St Bernadette's?

The Inquiry Learning model adopted by St Bernadette’s is based on the model devised by Australian educator, Kath Murdoch. In the Murdoch model of Inquiry Learning a range of activities and experiences is developed to build on and challenge student perceptions. It begins with students’ prior knowledge and experience as the is extended, challenged and refined. During this process students and teachers draw on a range of resources and work across key learning areas.

The activities have been grouped under the following broad headings:

Tuning In ~ Finding Out ~ Sorting Out ~

Going Further ~ Making Conclusions ~ Taking Action 


 How has Inquiry Learning developed at St Bernadette's?

At St Bernadette’s we have been using Inquiry Learning since 2008. We are pleased with the approach and the particular model that we use. Naturally there are elements which we have adapted and changed as time has gone by. For example, at this stage, the following considerations have meant adaptation or strengthening.


· The main change in recent times has been in the sequencing of stages. When we first started Inquiry Learning the school term was virtually split up into 6 periods of time as the students worked through a particular stage. We found that, although the process usually began with Tuning In and Finding Out, and usually finished with Conclusion and Action, it was not always that clear.  Current curriculum thinking is that such processes are not necessarily linear. This is particularly stressed in the Technology Curriculum. Transitions are often blurred; there are times in the middle of investigation when students need to tune in again or find out more information; The Inquiry process is often in made up of a variety of investigations throughout a term. It could be that within one day students could work through from tuning in to taking action.   

· The collaborative approach to planning has strengthened within syndicates and whole school.

· We have consolidated the need to reflect after each unit and determine which host areas and curriculum objectives we have covered. In doing this we select the next topic in terms of coverage to date, plus areas of particular need and relevance for the students.

· In the early stages of Inquiry Learning at St Bernadette’s we adhered quite strictly to the philosophy in that the learning direction is determined largely by individual children, groups of children, or the class. We still encourage the learning to change tack, but there is more teacher direction to ensure coverage of particular curriculum strands. Our justification is that the process and the learning are more important than the topic. It is a fine balance but we are comfortable with the compromise we have made.

· In assessment there is a balance of assessing Curriculum Objectives and Inquiry Skills.

· We also see that the Key Competencies are particularly related to Inquiry Learning and these are assessed in Written Reports to parents twice yearly.