Establishing belonging through inquiry

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An education that is focused on inquiry invites all students to engage and belong in the learning experience. Many of the traditional ways of doing school do not work for a majority of students. Teachers are the single greatest factor in ensuring a successful transition from traditional pedagogy to the adoption of inquiry in our classrooms.

What does it mean to teach from an inquiry stance? 

When we think about teaching from an inquiry stance, what are the ways curriculum, assessment, and instructional design empower students to engage, with confidence? In contexts where students are expected to question and inquire, the inclusive nature of student voice and choice becomes a norm.

As we scaffold our way to a more rigorous education might ask, are students acquiring skills that help them to ask great questions? Are we positioning students to take the lead in their own learning? Re-invigorating students’ natural curiosity requires teachers to demonstrate their curiosity and help learners to connect to subject matter through concepts and questions that frame the learning. 


An inquiry teacher possesses specific characteristics that empower them to harness the potential of increasing student agency over learning. The good news is that, wherever we are in our teaching career, these characteristics can be learned, nurtured, and honed. Through consistent and intentional use, these dispositions and understandings can become part of our teacher's DNA. And as we cultivate these essential characteristics, we will more powerfully be able to teach from an inquiry stance.  

What are the dispositions of an inquiry teacher?

To assist you in your learning journey, it is worth taking time to demystify the characteristics of the inquiry teacher; to clarify the nuances inquiry teachers demonstrate, the savviness they possess, and the mindset they embody.

As you view the video, reflect on your teaching practice.

  • Which of these characteristics do you already possess?
  • Which ones are you working to sharpen?
  • Which ones do you need to add to your repertoire?

With those dispositions and understandings in mind, we encourage you to reflect on the characteristics of an inquiry teacher, on your teaching and the type of learning environment you want to create. Take a moment to consider which of these characteristics you already possess, which you’re working toward sharpening, and which you need to add to your repertoire.

Think about each of the characteristics and consider more than a simple “yes, I do that” or “no, that’s not me”. Reflect on how these characteristics surface in your teaching. Be explicit about how you demonstrate these behaviors daily in your practice. Rate yourself on a scale: Where do you currently land between inquiry novice and inquiry master?

Now, set one goal for yourself for the coming weeks and months. What is one disposition or characteristic that you would like to more intentionally bring to your inquiry practice? Write this goal down. This will guide some of your next steps.


Reading and insights

IB Crisis Support Resources. (2023) “Learning and teaching using an inquiry approach in times of crisis.”

IB Language A Teacher Support Materials. “Inquiry questions” Programme Resource Center.

Murdoch, K., MacKenzie, T., and Mitchell, K. “Building a culture of inquiry” (video)

MacKenzie, T. (2019). Dive into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice. Elevate Books Edu.

IB professional development

Concepts and Inquiry (Category 3)

Investigating Inquiry (Category 3)

IB Programme Standards and Practices

Student support 4.1: The school identifies and uses a variety of human, virtual and physical resources in the wider community that aid and extend student learning. (0202-05-0100)

Coherent curriculum 1.6: The school demonstrates that the curriculum is influenced by an understanding of students’ prior knowledge, identities, backgrounds, needs and contexts. (0401-01-0600)

Approaches to teaching 1.1: Teachers use inquiry-based teaching strategies and learning engagements. (0403-01-0100)

Approaches to teaching 1.4: Teachers encourage student choice in appropriate places in the curriculum. (0403-01-0400)

Approaches to teaching 1.5: Teachers facilitate student exploration of their personal interests and ideas. (0403-01-0500)

IB Excellence and Equity Framework

Dimension 4: Instruction across the school is designed to support and engage all students in courses that are academically challenging and prepare them for college and university.

“Teachers support and encourage the participation of all students in activities and discussion. Teachers provide inquiry-based instruction that is organized around a driving question (or challenge) that encourages student voice and choice.”

Visit the IB Excellence and Equity Initiative page

Trevor MacKenzie.jpg

Trevor MacKenzie

Educator, author, PD consultant

—Victoria, British Columbia, Canada