Guest Post Review by Lisa Bieler

Lisa Bieler is a TOSA and Google Certified Trainer out of California who originally published this review of Dive into Inquiry on her blog.  Check her out and give her a follow on her online spaces.  Thanks Lisa!

“High school English teacher Trevor Mackenzie’s recently published book by EdTechTeam Press, Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice, presents an approach to personalized learning requiring students to eventually take ownership of their own learning.

A tough student situation sparked his own dive into inquiry. Mackenzie sought ways to retain students who might otherwise seek alternative classes or drop out altogether. His seven year journey culminated in the publishing of this book.

Dive Into Inquiry has a broad scope, and isn’t a narrow lesson, unit, or experience. It is a fundamental, yet doable shift that requires educators to keep in mind:

  • a mindful transition to foster student agency and support the shift in pedagogical models students will experience
  • collaborative journey through the Types of Student Inquiry that nurtures a gradual release of control over learning in the classroom
  • gaining a grasp of Understanding by Design and planning for a performance task that demonstrates deep understanding
  • honouring our students, their passions, and goals and tying them to the learning objectives of the course (quoted from the introduction, bold mine)

This easy to read book (about 130 pages) outlines shifts in pedagogy, types of student inquiry, essential questions, creating an authentic product and displaying it publicly.  He starts with some classroom management strategies, such as being flexible, teaching real skills, making eye contact with students, and taking the time to get to know them.

Inquiry based learning is not about telling students to find something that they want to learn about and go do it. Inquiry based classrooms aren’t about the teacher sitting in the back of the room checking email and correcting spelling and grammar. This approach is about scaffolding students’ journey into learning about something that they care about and guiding this trip by assisting students in developing a free inquiry proposal and providing prompts.

Sprinkled throughout the pages are QR codes that link to YouTube videos of student work, some his own and some from across the globe. These students have produced work and broadcast it to the world. Video evidence is one way students demonstrate their learning, as well as writing, video/audio, photography, and dance. His learners record evidence of their learning with storyboards, compilation of resources, their learning process, photography, feedback from mentors or critics.

Mackenzie recommends starting small, but with a plan. You can start by revising an existing unit of study, designing a syllabus with your students, or infusing a smaller chunk of learning with the Dive Into Inquiryprocess, which scaffolds each step into the next. Plan, do, iterate, and reflect.


(I was not paid to write this review, nor was I given the book to review it. I did receive it for no cost as a prize in a recent Teacher Appreciation promotion by EdTechTeam and thought it was very worth reading and reviewing.)”



This week’s edition of #MeaningfulMonday is a call to action.  Everything that we know of school and the buildings and structures we operate in are questioned in this video.  Reimagining what school truly is, at its core, to be something that better prepares our learners to be the critical thinkers and creators and collaborators we need.  Love the good folks at The OPEDUCA Project.  Find them and follow them.  You won’t be disappointed.

Make your Monday meaningful y’all.

Guest Post by Colleen Rose

I first met Colleen Rose when she reached out to me on twitter during her reading of Dive into Inquiry.  We collaborated a bit at first and our connection grew into a trip to her school just north of Thunder Bay, Ontario to Nipigon-Red Rock High School.  While there I worked with her amazing colleagues and co-leaders of the day Lindsay Miller Costa and Stephen Wilson.  I’m incredibly blessed to work with so many inspiring and dedicated teachers.  These three have been awesome additions to my PLN.

Have a read of Colleen’s review of Dive into Inquiry below and follow these #edustars at their various online spaces.

“Last month, I hit a wall. I realized that I had been assuming quite a bit about my pedagogical methods as well as my classroom structure, and I knew I had work to do. What that work was, wasn’t obvious at the time but at least I had identified the problem.

Last week, my copy of Trevor MacKenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry arrived in the mail and the timing seemed almost serendipitous. I tore into the book like a drowning swimmer reaching for a life raft.

I appreciated the message in the foreword, provided by Alec Couros, whose work I’ve appreciated for quite some time. His assertion that Trevor’s book could address questions that had been occupying space in my mind was more than enough to keep me interested. The emphasis on authenticity in the school environment, “practical approaches [married] with …theoretical and philosophical understandings“, and a “solid pedagogical framework” promised hope for someone yearning to connect the dots and establish order within my unknown vision of an ideal classroom setting.


Trevor’s own stories of working with high school students mirrored many of my own experiences and concerns, and I felt that I could identify with the challenges he had faced while teaching. Maybe his model of inquiry might work for my students too…

This year, my TLLP project helps me devote time and energy into providing a classroom environment that is dedicated to student-centred learning. Teaching for Artistic Behaviour deeply respects each student, his or her interests and goals. When I read that all students deserve a chance to explore their passions, interests, and curiosities, I knew that Trevor’s inquiry model would be an excellent fit for my students.


The week before Trevor’s book arrived, I spent two days tearing my curriculum apart. I realized which expectations were non-negotiable; the kinds of facts and skills that need to be delivered in a somewhat traditional method. There were other expectations that could be combined with others, and then there were expectations that worked very well within an inquiry model — I just needed the framework for that model.


Not only does transparent planning create an environment of trust, but it shows a dedication to each student as well as genuine respect for them.
Trevor reviews his course curriculum with his students, and requires their input on the best way to meet the expectations. Their responses to questionnaires devoted to uncovering their learning preferences are then used along with their suggestions to design the course syllabus for the year.

In an ideal classroom, free inquiry would work for every student, but there are steps to take before students might feel comfortable with such vast independence.  I’m looking forward to learning more about each type of Student Inquiry in the next few chapters of Trevor’s book:  Structured, Controlled, Guided and Free Inquiry.  Until then, one of my senior students has an interest in learning using an inquiry model, and has begun to look through our curriculum expectations with me.


We are beginning to understand what an essential question is, thanks to the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and how these questions can be used to direct our learning.

I honestly can’t wait to see where this takes me and my students…!

Who Are You? What Shapes Your Identity?

Throughout the school year I love to post what we are unpacking in our classes here at Oak Bay High School.  Being a full-time English teacher (this year my timetable consists of English 12, English 11 and Creative Writing) I am actually living in the inquiry pool that I outline in Dive into Inquiry.  We are following the processes outlined in the book and using structures such as the Four Pillars of Inquiry, the Inquiry Process, and the Free Inquiry Proposal that are in Dive into Inquiry.

Our current unit of study, a structured inquiry unit, focuses on the essential questions Who are you?  What shapes your identity?  

In rolling out this essential question I presented students with a number of provocations to get their wonderings and understandings out publicly and to help drive my instruction and their shape role in the unit.

I first shared with them the below slide to set the shape of our unit.  I outlined that we will be looking at identity in many contexts and understandings to help deepen and enrich each of our perspectives on the factors that shape who we are.  We’ll be grappling with many readings, resources, images and art, as well as speakers and other multimedia provocations.  Each of these will at times challenge our perspective, reaffirm our beliefs, and perhaps steer us in a new direction and understanding.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.08.42 AM

We then spent time in small groups of 3 (the magic number of optimal collaboration) contributing our ideas on what actually shapes our identity to a digital pin-board using Answer Garden.  We discussed ideas around each perspective and students spoke to their opinions and prior knowledge.  Have a look at the images below!

I then shared the below provocations in order to see what they noticed, what they wondered and what they knew about each.  This was a great activity as it solidified how we, as a community of learners, will have our voice heard in the course and that this will guide my instruction and their role in their learning.


We settled on the below image and followed the same notice, wonder, know process.  The conversation was powerful.  We discussed the why behind the before and after of each pairing, the factors that students knew contributed to this change, and highlighted some big ideas and conceptual understandings that will be the backbone of our unit.  Beyond identity words that surfaced included assimilation, discrimination, segregation, racism and residential school.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.09.29 AM

As you can see the provocations slowly, step by step, began to narrow our focus on one lens on identity: aboriginal people.  We will now spend a few weeks deepening our understanding on this aspect of identity.  Students have a few novels to select from: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Three Day Road, or Indian Horse.  We are also looking at the life and death of Chanie Wenjack as well as a few other pieces that I’m certain will resonate with students.

We will then shift our focus on identity to other lenses such as gender and identity, politics and identity, and art and identity.  In this structured unit we are not tied to a single text or resource.  Rather we are connected to an overarching essential question and interact with a broad range of readings and artifacts that deepen our understanding of the essential question.

I’ll keep you all posted as this structured unit unfolds.  Feel free to leave a comment for my learners (or me!) below.


Listen to Sarah wax on being creative. Consider the depth to what she shares.  Think on her talents demonstrated throughout her video. Focus on her honest voice, her candid reflection, and her rich metacognitive discourse.

Now get this.  She’s 15 years old.

Back in the day what were you doing when you were 15?  What are most of your students doing right now?  And most importantly, how can we empower and support more of our students in our classes to do what Sarah is doing?

Great food for thought, no?

Make your Monday meaningful y’all.

Guest Blog by Meaghan & Karley!

I was thrilled when two colleagues in my own district were willing to read and review Dive into Inquiry this past year.  Although the giveaway is long ago over their feedback and analysis of the book’s offerings is extremely helpful.  Have a read below and give them a follow on their online spaces.  Thanks friends!

“Disclaimer: We were provided with a copy of the book in return for an honest review. All opinions and reviews are our own.

We are so excited for this post about an amazing book from an inspiring educator in our district, Trevor MacKenzie.

This book has made our list of ‘must read’ books for teachers. It is engaging and informative, plus it’s a relatively quick read. There is so much practical, use right away advice in here that Karley even said, “I feel like I’m stealing treasure reading this!” How many workshops have you been to or books have you read where you are left feeling like “yeah that’s awesome but how/when/etc?” This book was just the opposite – the steps to implementing are clear, concise and there are so many easy places to start.

“Student agency begins by creating strong relationships built on trust.”

We don’t need to be sold on inquiry, it’s a teaching practice that completely respects the interests and experiences of students. Respectful teaching is right up our alley so of course we are in, but the HOW piece is always that intimidating stepping stone to something new. We have both done inquiry based units in the past and tried to incorporate it into some of our planning but honestly, reading Dive Into Inquiry was the first time we felt like we could successfully make our classrooms inquiry based.

Having tried Genius Hour and other personal inquiry projects in the past, there are some parts of free inquiry that we had trouble grasping when picturing the overall “inquiry based classroom” but Trevor explains exactly how to overcome these barriers through scaffolding, careful planning, and supporting students one on one. He gives clear, understandable examples throughout the book of how to manage so many of the different facets of managing an inquiry based classroom.

Our favourite parts of the book:

  • Outline for creating syllabus as a class (student agency!)
  • Description of the scaffolded “Types of Student Inquiry”
  • Examples of multi-age and community connections
  • Clear ways of guiding students through the research process
  • Examples of inquiry in different subject areas
  • Commitment to publicly sharing student work
  • QR Codes with examples of student work – so cool!
  • SketchNote graphics throughout the book
  • Plus it’s really cool to see the names of people we know in a book!We have a GIVEAWAY for you to win a copy of Dive Into Inquiry.

    There are two ways for you to enter:

    1. Write us a comment telling us your experiences with inquiry or why you want to read this book
    2. Follow Trevor MacKenzie (@trev_mackenzie) and Tale of Two Teachers (@taletwoteachers) on Twitter and leave a second comment telling us when you do

    Giveaway ends on Sunday January 15th. Winner will be announced on the blog and contacted via email.

    Please note: Maximum two entries per person. Entries must be in the form of separate comments with email provided.

    Good luck!”

The Inquiry Process

Trevor MacKenzie

Inquiry Process Illustration.PNG

I love this visual.  When adopting an inquiry mindset it’s important for educators to grasp that although we are giving agency over learning to our students, we must help them be successful in their new roles in the inquiry classroom.

We need to model how questions lead to learning.

We need to be explicit in our teaching of the structures we will use to be successful in our inquiry.

We need to share assessment and have students take the reins of metacognitive reflection.

One strength of Dive into Inquiry is found in the graphics throughout the book.  The power of an image to help create understanding and inspire change cannot be understated.  These graphics can be used as teaching tools to help strengthen the inquiry process.  In my classroom these are on display on our walls, students have copies of them in their binders and on their blogs, and we…

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