6 insights from Kath Murdoch to empower every PYP teacher

Kath Murdoch – a name synonymous with inquiry (the cornerstone of the PYP). Every teacher initiates herself into this world of the PYP following her inquiry cycle.
No matter how far along my journey of teaching I come, I find myself going back to her (I’m currently reading her book ‘The power of Inquiry’) again and again for guidance on so many aspects of the PYP – the art of questioning, the stages of inquiry, assessments, reflection and so much more.
My PYP blog would always have felt incomplete without integrating her insights – which is why I shared the link to her blog in one of my earlier posts. I also reached out to Kath, asking if she would be willing to answer questions my readers may have on inquiry in different domains of the PYP. I was delighted to receive a prompt and encouraging response from her – demonstrating her commitment and enthusiasm to educating the educators!
Kath has a unique ability to deconstruct this seemingly complex inquiry model into easy to follow steps – empowering teachers with the feeling ‘Yes, I can do this’ OR ‘Oh! I’m already doing that!’. Every answer below demonstrates that – beautifully articulated in a knowledgeable and yet easy to follow way.

I express a heartfelt thanks on behalf of the entire community for her contribution in empowering us in making our students capable and confident learners.  

So, go ahead, sit back with your cuppa and feast yourself on these nuggets of wisdom – quoted verbatim from the most authentic and knowledgeable source.

1. How far can we bring inquiry into the languages? Do you personally feel it is more difficult than STEM subjects?

If you see inquiry as a stance then it is possible to bring it to all areas of the curriculum. Inquiry is about engaging learners as researchers – inviting them to ‘figure things out’, look for patterns, raise questions and think deeply. This kind of learning is not subject specific. Learning a language is an act of inquiry in itself. 

2. How to bridge the gap between teacher guided and student led inquiry?

All inquiry is guided in some way and I am not sure what is meant by a ‘gap?’. In an inquiry based approach we release responsibility to students but we do this in a way that is consistent with their needs and their readiness.  Teachers are always guiding in some way and students lead in others.  In most journeys of inquiry, students AND teachers are working together to negotiate the way forward. 

3. How can students carry on with inquiry through experiments or investigation without being taught related vocabulary or information?

Students inquire in order TO build vocabulary and gather information. If “being taught” means that teachers explain/demonstrate/provide… then this is part of the inquiry process and one of the roles the teacher plays.  Explaining is not separated from inquiry – it is part of it. 

4. Importance of unstructured inquiry in teaching and learning

It depends what you mean by structure. Structure in the form of routines, scaffolds and frameworks is really important so that there are some boundaries and consistencies for learners. Everything we do in an inquiry classroom is intentional and carefully designed. If it is too loose and chaotic, then we can easily overwhelm learners and lose sight of what the learning is. 

5. How do we meaningfully and authentically apply inquiry based learning in single subject areas especially during online teaching?

The same things that are important in the classroom are important in online teaching:
Listening to and honouring children’s questions and theories 
Modelling what it means to be a curious, passionate learner
Providing opportunities for learners to do more “figuring out” – flipping the gradual release model
Valuing thinking by using routines and scaffolds that have learners thinking creatively, critically and reflectively
Providing ample time for children to investigate
Giving them opportunities to make choices about what/how/with whom they will learn and how they might show it (not full choice in everything but contained choices) 
Inquiry as an approach to teaching and learning can continue even when we are not in the classroom – Providing children with challenges that position them as a researcher/investigator is the key.

6. How to make lessons more concept based and inquiry driven in single subject areas – Music / Dance / PHE 

The above response is my answer to the inquiry part of this question. For the concept based part – first make sure you understand what concepts are and then see if you can locate the concepts within a lesson/task. Learn to think less about topics and activities and more about the concepts that sit above them.  In dance, for example, there are abundant concepts that can be explored including pattern, expression, collaboration, balance… these SAME concepts might be developed in PE and in Music. Exploring such concepts simultaneously can mean greater transfer and deeper understanding. 

To conclude with one of her quotes would be fitting here –

You can follow her blog atJustWondering — KATH MURDOCH

14 thoughts on “6 insights from Kath Murdoch to empower every PYP teacher

  1. I like ur blog Sonia,it’s centred around educators n students which enables both to learn across n beyond traditional subject boundaries

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful teaching. Learning not only for the students but teachers too . kudos to you for coming up with different thought process and intellectual learning every time


  3. Kudos to you for coming with different thought process in teaching and intellectual learning. Powerful learning

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I learn something new as a inquire into the inquiry cycle. If I’m not mistaken, Kath Murdoch has updated her cycle to only five stages.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the Kath Murdoch’s Power of Inquiry. Learning a lot with new insights on revisiting the book again with friends during the Book Club Meets.

    Liked by 1 person

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