Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Inquiry Breaks Down Rigidity

This past weekend, I attended my third Educon at Science Leadership Academy. While I always enjoy this annual event, I found this year's conference to be particularly helpful.

Specifically, Chris Lehmann's session on structured inquiry helped me consider a critically important point:
Inquiry breaks down rigidity.


Well, as someone who works with essential questions and structured inquiry every day, I can write a pretty mean essential question. I also know that asking kids open-ended questions makes the learning environment more unpredictable, fluid, and interesting. However, I hadn't considered the role of inquiry in progressive problem resolution.

Ok-- Let me paraphrase Chris' story--
Chris aptly stated that most arguments have a point which is commonly answered by a counterpoint. In communities or cultures that value inquiry, however, most points are not answered by counterpoints. Instead, they are answered by QUESTIONS.  

Interesting, huh?

So instead of becoming mired in your opinion, you have to reconsider your stance over and over again. It helps people to consider the different ways that someone can approach a problem without aggressive or non-productive confrontation.

So instead of:
Point <---> Counterpoint

Point <---> Question <---> Think <---> Answer <---> Question

Having tried this myself several times since Sunday, I can tell you that it's working quite nicely. Instead of inviting confrontation, a good question seems to engage me and my various discussion partners in conversations that lead to blended solutions.

How will you wield the power of inquiry today?


  1. I can agree that askng additional questions after a point is made can also buy you time in a difficult situation. Rather than firing back at a colleague when you think you may not agree, asking a question can defuse the energy in a difficult confrontation. In terms of work wth students, it pushes them to prove their point, think of new angle, or find more evidence - all good skills to foster.

  2. First, we have to think question and questions about the question. Second is how to put the rights questions.

  3. I think inquiry is important to improve the knowledge on both sides of a discussion. Inquiry benefits persons 2 because when person 1 makes a statement, instead of making a counterpoint it is better to ask a question to ensure your understanding of what person 1 is trying to say. Likewise it benefits person 1 because they as the speaker have the opportunity to reflect on their own statement and elaborate their point.

  4. Inquiry is definitely a great tool for clarifying meaning. It allows all parties a chance to ensure they are on the same page.

  5. It's interesting to think about how the inquiry process is used in the world outside of education, in jobs where negotiation, collaboration and compromise are necessary to operate a business, work as a team, and move forward to resolve issues and become productive. In many jobs, using inquiry to reach mutual understanding is more productive than confrontation and "winning" an argument.

  6. I think that the inquiry is an important tool in the collaboration process with colleagues or other professionals because it facilitates the sharing and evaluation of information so that the most appropriate decisions can be made in regards to the needs of the student.

  7. The Language Arts classroom is a fantastic place for inquiries. When reading current events articles with students I typically finish the reading by asking some questions. My students are quite clever and love to come up with new questions. These could easily lead to a student-led discovery project.

  8. In my opinion, I firmly believe that inquiry is an essential strategy for achieving effective collaboration. This strategy enhances the educational dynamic among professionals and colleagues. It focuses on sharing resources, activities, assignments, instructional methods, and assessment options.

  9. Sarah ZettlemoyerMay 22, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    I believe inquiry is the basis to learning. I agree with what Kristen states in the article.

  10. Chemistry is a great place to use inquiry as an educational strategy. Students take ownership of the labs and what they learn from them instead of just following a step by step procedure. Awesome technique!!

  11. Inquiry is very important. Tying into my classroom can be tricky at times but well worth the experience for my students.

  12. I like to do online debates with my American Cultures classes. I think this sort of approach of asking questions instead of making counterpoints would be interesting to try within some of those online discussions.

  13. I think that inquiry certainly has a big part in education. Helping Kindergartners 'get into it' is a little challenging!

  14. Anytime you can get student to think in a positive interaction is a great thing for a classroom environment.

  15. With this process of providing an educational point to your children, staff or fellow colleagues followed up with a question, allows them an opportunity to think about what was just presented to them. Once they have thought about it, they can then provide their own stance, ideas or questions to look at different aspects and delve deeper into what was just presented. It sounds like a great way to foster discussion and a means to gain a greater understanding of the material.

  16. Becky
    I think discussion and inquiry are powerful in student learning. Students learn so much from each other and bring all their knowledge together through inquiry. Being able to find answers on the internet is a powerful resource. i was in a classroom the other day where they were working on geometric shapes and someone asked me if I knew what an 11 sided figure was called. I did not, but i said I would look it up and we got the answer momentarily.



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