General Guided Inquiry Unit

General Guided Inquiry Unit


In Beagle’s guided inquiry process, the instructor scaffolds student inquiry by providing students with the Goal Question and the research process that they should follow.

Guided inquiry learning is a great way to start students off with inquiry-based learning. For example, if you want to set up a space for your students to lead themselves in their own investigations but don't think they're quite ready for a fully open inquiry process, guided inquiry learning is a great way to provide structure, but still allow for student ownership of the research process.

Guided inquiry is suitable for any age group and nearly all academic disciplines: any assignment in which the teacher guides the students by giving them the goal and the process but allows students to undertake their own investigations is an example of guided inquiry learning!

Students who complete this unit chart their own path by asking questions that move them closer to an answer to the instructor-designed Goal Question, conducting research, and distilling the information they have gathered.

Students work toward their goal using a weekly inquiry cycle that involves reading content, asking a Natural Next Question that takes them one step closer to their goal, seeking content to help answer that question, and repeating!

Through following the inquiry cycle and discussing in class, students will learn how to work toward solving a complex problem through multiple steps. Beagle’s guided inquiry unit is based on the well-supported notion that learner-centered and active learning produce much stronger learning outcomes. Guided inquiry promotes higher-order and critical thinking, engages student interests, scaffolds to meet the needs of diverse learners, and teaches the relevance of any subject through application.

Goals/Learning Outcomes

  • Apply the steps of the Beagle Inquiry Framework to address a complex problem set by the instructor
  • Assess the value and productivity of Natural Next Questions
  • Distinguish reputable sources of existing knowledge and evaluate these materials for relevance and limitations
  • Apply best practices for giving and receiving feedback
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills in written reports, critiques, and distillations

Example Schedule

Example Agenda

Week 1: Day 1

  1. (5 min) Provide an Introduction to Open Inquiry

    1. Present the Beagle Learning Inquiry Framework and outline the structure you will follow through the course
    2. Present the mindset needed: having agency and taking ownership of learning, following nonlinear learning, and practicing collaborative skills that really matter after school.
  2. (5 min) Introduce the Goal Question

    1. Introduce the Goal Question, the big-picture question that students will attempt to answer throughout the course. Below are some examples of Goal Questions, and here is a great video by Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton on how to set a Goal Question:
    • What will the Moon look like after humans have settled it?
    • What is the future of theater in the time of COVID?
    • How will we find extraterrestrial life and what should we do once we find it?
    • What is the meaning and benefit of failure?
  3. (Optional) Provide a content burst

    1. This could be a 10-15 minute mini-lecture or video to set a foundation of understanding for the class that will help them come up with a Natural Next Question and find a source.
  4. (5 min) Introduce the Beagle Question Cycle

    1. Explain to students that they will now conduct an iterative research process in order to answer, or begin to answer, the class’s Goal Question
      1. Clearly define the steps of the inquiry cycle: research, summary, distillation, etc.
      2. Introduce the idea of an NNQ, a bite-sized question that takes students one step closer to answering the Goal Question
      3. Explain to students that they will undertake this process collaboratively as a member of a group.
  5. (10 min) Gather students into groups

    1. Separate students into groups of 5-6 students each. You can have them choose their groups or you create the groups for them.
  6. (30 min) Prompt students to brainstorm their Natural Next Questions

    1. (5 min) Explain that in this next step, we are going through an iterative research process, based on asking and answering Natural Next Questions, or bite-sized research questions that get us one step closer to answering our Goal Question.
    2. (10 min) Brainstorm some possible Natural Next Questions in a single list on a piece of paper or the whiteboard.
    3. (15 min) Ask students to read through the questions and group similar questions.
    4. (20 min) Have students vote (2 or 3 votes) on the questions they feel would be most valuable to answer. (Alternative: Have each student choose their own question to answer).
    5. Have each group record or take pictures of the work that they have done so far (this can be done in Canvas or in Beagle).

Week 1: Day 2

  1. (30 min) Have students find their own source to answer their Natural Next Question. This can be done in class or as homework.

  2. (20 min) Introduce Summaries to Students

    1. Assign students to summarize what they have learned from the source and reflect on its context, and write down a next NNQ from it.

    2. Give them an overview of how to summarize.

      1. “The idea here is to force yourself to distill down the key learnings from this source and make it easy for the rest of the team to understand that information, too.”
      2. Walk them through the summary rubric.
      3. Explain to students where they submit their summary.
        1. If using Beagle Learning mind mapping software, explain how Beagle is designed to help them easily organize their inquiry-based research in one place (their group mind map and individual research feed) to make their distillations/final presentation much easier to create.

• Students find any source that helps answer their NNQ.
• Students write their 1st research summary based on that source.

Week 2

  1. (45 min) All-class discussion of papers (Summary 1)

    1. Have students go through and share their research and their Natural Next Question. Have them answer questions such as:
      1. What did you learn from your reading?
      2. What questions did you identify during your reading?
  2. (15 min) Optional Content burst: Finding Reliable Sources

  3. (30 min) Have students find a reputable source to answer their Natural Next Question. This can be done in class or as homework.

  4. (Optional) Give class time to students for writing their summaries. Pair and share for student peer feedback on their summaries before they need to submit summaries.

• Students find a reputable source that helps answer their NNQ.
• Students write a 2nd summary to address their new NNQ based on the new, reputable source that they have found.

Week 3: Day 1

  1. (45 min) All-class discussion of papers

    1. Have students go through and share their research and their Natural Next Question. Have them answer questions such as:
      1. What did you learn from your reading?
      2. What questions did you identify during your reading?
  2. (30 min) Introduce the Question Productivity Index (QPI) rubric to students

    1. Here's a great article and video by Dr. Lindy Elkins Tanton on how to use the QPI Rubric - Download Here
    2. Give student working group QPI form. Ask them to rate their own question and their group members' questions.
    3. Ask students to re-write their questions.

Week 3: Day 2

  1. (10 min) Present distillations and how students will create their infographics

Example Conversation: “Now that we’ve explored quite a number of sources and questions, I think it would be really helpful -- at least for me! -- if we could each synthesize everything we’ve learned into something easy to consume and understand. We’re going to do a distillation at this point. Distillations can take whatever form you think is most helpful, but they should condense the most important information you’ve learned into an easy-to-understand chunk.
Infographics, charts, tables, or even pieces of art can work well for this. In some cases, a short write-up or slide deck would work. The goal here is for this information to be useful for you and others in remembering what you learned.

• Students prepare distillation infographics of their learnings so far.

Week 4

  1. (30 min) Individual infographic share. While students do their 1-minute share of their infographic, the instructor should be writing students into groups based on the common infographic structure.

  2. (25 min) Group Work. If you have a classroom whiteboard space, write the group names in different sections of the whiteboard where they will work together to draw out their infographic.

"Your group will work together at the white board to create one united infographic that puts together all your common information.”
"You'll have 20 minutes to do this, so work fast! And elect one person to present the result to the class. In your share, you’ll be asked to point out the importance of the overall infographic structure (what does it add to our understanding of the pieces of information?) and your TOP TWO most important concepts learned so far.”

Instructor breaks class into their working groups.

  1. (20 min) Students operate in working groups to make their joint infographics together. Instructor can walk around the room to check on progress.

  2. (20 min) At the end of the allotted time, each of the groups gives the class a quick tour of their group infographic for 3 min each.

Optional Next Step: If you want to continue and do another question cycle

  1. Have students brainstorm their Natural Next Question for their next Question Cycle.

  2. (15 min) Instructor breaks the class back into their groups so they can brainstorm their Natural Next Questions, vote, and select the single or top Natural Next Questions to pursue in the next research cycle.

  3. Each group then announces their NNQ(s).

  4. Have students repeat weeks 2 and 3 above, researching their Natural Next Questions.

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