The Four Pillars of Inquiry

The Four Pillars of Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt

The Four Pillars of Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt

I love shaping learning and how we spend time in school around things we’re passionate about.  Over my years as an educator I’ve witnessed many students who are incredibly talented and dedicated to their craft.  Whether it be a sport, an artistic endeavour, or a hobby or curiosity that has turned into something greater, passions provide some excitingly meaningful and powerful learning experiences.

But I have also discovered that solely structuring learning around passions can be a tricky thing.  For one, all educators operate under some sort of governing body that requires particular learning objectives be met.  A question I often here from colleagues wanting to adopt inquiry into their classroom is “how can passions and learning objectives be simultaneously honoured?”  This is a great question and one that I unpack in my book Dive into Inquiry and a point I’ll tackle in a future post.

And second, I have often heard from students when I attempt  to weave passions into the classroom that they are not passionate about anything, that they don’t have something that makes them feel fulfilled, that they’ve set their minds to, and that they’ve committed to over the course of some time.  I’m certain you’ve heard the same: “I’m not passionate about anything.”  How can we pull all of our learners in to the inquiry classroom if their connectedness is limited by this one particular hiccup?

In my classroom this is where The Four Pillars of Inquiry come into play.

The Four Pillars are inquiry avenues that provide all learners with the support and foundation to begin to formulate their inquiry topic and their essential question.  Let’s take a brief look at each pillar to help create some understanding of how these support the inquiry classroom.

Explore a Passion: beginning inquiry from a place of passion allows students to start from a place of high interest, commitment, and confidence.  Further to that, students are able to tap into a wealth of prior knowledge that will strengthen the initial steps of their inquiry.

Aim for a Goal: at times students enter my classroom with a vividly clear picture of where they will be in their future.  Whether it be an institute of higher ed, a particular program, or a career path, this pillar provides learners with the support and structure to work towards a goal they possess.

Delve into Your Curiosities: I believe interests and curiosities, things that students have always wondered about but never had the time, space, or support to explore, turn into passions after we’ve grappled with them for an extended period of time.  The third pillar provides students with the means to help identify these questions that have been left unanswered in their educational experience.

Take on a New Challenge: the fourth pillar is rooted in helping students rise to a particular challenge that they’ve identified as worthy of their time and energy.  I’ve supported learners in a myriad of challenges from identifying and attempting to solve social issues such as poverty to facing the challenge of learning something new like a musical instrument or a language.

Each of The Four Pillars of Inquiry is touched down on throughout our coursework.  We constantly weave them into our discussions, our sharing, and our writing so that when it comes time to formulate an inquiry topic learners have already unpacked there their inquiry could take them.

Chapter 7 of Dive into Inquiry is dedicated to The Four Pillars of Inquiry and outlines each pillar in detail, provides meaningful lessons and prompts to support inquiry, and gives student examples to bring the process to life.  Please consider looking further into the book for more information.

Do you incorporate passions in to your classroom?  Do you see The Four Pillars supporting inquiry?  Feel free to comment below!

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