Inquiry Professional Development with Kath Murdoch

15 March 2024

Kath Murdoch Collaborates with Teachers in planning powerful units of inquiry

To enhance the quality of inquiry-based learning as part of our Project RISE framework, the teachers at St Peters Woodland had the privilege of collaborating with renowned Australian education consultant, Kath Murdoch.

Over the course of two days, Kath engaged our teachers on how to plan deep and powerful units of inquiries for SPW students. We were delighted to host other colleagues from several primary school across Adelaide who also took part in the training.

Reception to Year 2 teachers came together on the Tuesday to focus on inquiry in the Early Years and on Wednesday Years 3 to 6 teachers, along with specialist teachers, came together with a middle and upper primary focus.

What is Inquiry Learning
Inquiry-based Learning is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios. The overall goal is for students to make meaning. Inquiry-based learning is an approach to learning that emphasises the student’s role in the learning process. Rather than the teacher telling students what they need to know, students are encouraged to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas. This approach to learning allows students to develop learning dispositions which will hold them in good stead to be life-long learners.

Both sessions kicked off with Kath demonstrating a personal name inquiry, an activity that involved participants partnering up and discussing their name with each other. It was an opportunity to learn something about one another in a purposeful and meaningful way. The individuals took what they had learnt from their partner and shared it with the group. This example supported Kath’s message of the importance of taking time to build relationships in the classroom, a crucial component to inspiring a strong culture of inquiry in the classroom. Kath also highlighted how essential it is students are explicitly taught the learning assets and enduring qualities – a tool kit for learners to rely upon when they approach their inquiry

Throughout the workshop teachers were involved in discussions, hands on activities and practical classroom examples which encouraged them to reflect on their current teaching practices and explore innovative ways to deepen their own units of inquiry. One of the key areas of exploration and reflection was furthering their understanding of concepts (big ideas) to drive the design of powerful units of inquiry that cater to the diverse needs and interests of students.

Key Takeaways

  • Empowering Students: the significance of empowering students to take ownership of their learning through inquiry.
  •  Planning Strategies: valuable insights into effective planning for developing inquiry-based units that align with curriculum standards while fostering creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Collaborative Learning: The workshop fostered a spirit of collaboration among teachers, encouraging them to share best practices and brainstorm ideas for implementing inquiry-based approaches in their classrooms.

Our work with Ron Ritchhart and Visible Thinking Routines connects with Kath’s beliefs in nurturing students’ curiosity and critical thinking skills. These rich opportunities for our staff to learn and develop from these experts and understand how the approaches overlap and connect continue to strengthen our how we teach both inquiry and explicit learning. By blending the two teaching pedagogies students are set up to be life long learners.

The workshop has equipped educators with practical tools for planning powerful inquiries but also reinforced the school’s dedication to nurturing the next generation of inquisitive and independent learners. Teachers are excited to implement the strategies and techniques learned from the workshop, creating a more dynamic and student-centred learning environment.

We look forward to welcoming Ron back to the school in August and Kath again in 2025.


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