Beagle’s Open Inquiry unit facilitates student-led inquiry via the Beagle Open Inquiry Question Cycle, which breaks down the research and team-sharing process into comprehensible and easy-to-follow steps. Open inquiry is suitable for any age group and most academic disciplines, and the open inquiry cycle works especially well for projects and research experiences.

Students who complete this unit chart their own path by asking self-designed goal questions, and they learn to find, read, and summarize content to answer those questions. Students work toward their goal using the weekly inquiry cycle described above 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. This student-led open inquiry unit 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 Inquiry Question Cycle to understand complex problems
  • Assess the value and productivity of research questions
  • Distinguish primary and secondary 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
  • Set team norms such that every person speaks and all people listen

Example Schedule

Example Agenda

Week 1

  1. (15 min) Provide an Introduction to Open Inquiry

    1. Present the open 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.
    3. Share the interest area (e.g., space exploration) or theme (e.g., civil rights) that students will brainstorm issues within
  2. (50 min) Generate Goal Questions

    1. (30 min) Have students generate issues or problems that are personal to them

      1. Give everyone 5-minutes to write down issues within that theme that they see around them.
      2. Have everyone shout out their top problem or issue for you to notate on the board. It’s ok if these vary in their level of specificity.
      3. Have the students categorize those ideas into topics (at least 9-10)
        1. “What are the common topics we’re seeing here?” Examples: forests, oceans, freshwater, community, animals, local foliage, human biology, migration, severe weather
    2. (5 min) Group students based on the topic they are most interested in

      1. Have students share the topic they are interested in. Write their names by their topic area or have them stand by the topic at the board.
      2. Separate students into groups (~5-8 students ea). You can have them choose their groups or you create the groups for them. Each group will have their own Goal Question.
    3. (15 min) Prompt students to turn issues into concrete, actionable questions that promote paths forward.

      1. "Let’s go through these and rewrite each as a question."
      2. Students should scribe all the questions in a single list (on whiteboard or paper)
  3. (20 min) Help Students Gain Consensus on Single Goal Question

    1. Decide on the number of votes each person gets to cast
    2. Prompt student groups to vote on their Goal Questions
    3. Help students build consensus
      1. Prompt the team: “It feels a bit heavy-handed to just force everyone to work on this, even if they didn’t vote on it. Any suggestions for how we could make sure the final question we choose is one everyone is excited about and committed to?
      2. Discuss approaches. Allow students to suggest and try out ways to build consensus.
      3. Suggest solutions as needed
    4. In the end, agree on a single question to pursue for each group
    5. Have each group record or take pictures of the work that they have done so far
  4. (25 min) Introduce Element 2 and Create First 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. Break out students into their groups to:

      1. (10 min) Brainstorm some possible Natural Next Questions in a single list on a piece of paper or the whiteboard.
      2. (5 min) Ask students to read through the questions and group similar questions.
      3. (5 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).
      4. Have students find their own source
  5. (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.”
    3. Walk them through the summary rubric.

    4. Explain to students where they submit their summary and how Beagle Learning 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
    2. Introduce the Question Productivity Index Rubric and why it is needed
  2. (15 min) Content burst: Finding Reliable Sources

Assignment: 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

  1. (10 min) Introduce the QPI rubric to students

  2. (45 min) All-class discussion of papers (Summary 1)

    1. Have students go through and share their research and their Natural Next Question
    2. Introduce the Question Productivity Index Rubric and why it is needed
    3. Give student working group QPI form
  3. (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 helpful to you. If there is a specific type of information you’re trying to gather - for example, all the stakeholders who are involved in the topic you’ve chosen - your distillation might actually be a running list of those stakeholders in a google spreadsheet that the whole team can reference. In future you all should feel free at any point during this research process to ask for us to pause and do a distillation.

Assignment: Students prepare distillation infographics consolidating 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 white board 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.

  3. Now it’s time to have students brainstorm their Natural Next Question for their next Question Cycle.

  4. (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.

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