Written Curriculum Step 4: Statement of Inquiry and Inquiry Questions

Updated: Aug 1

The statement of inquiry guides the unit and has a few requirements. We’ll look at these guidelines before forming some examples from our work in progress MYP1 units from the previous post.

-It needs to make sense - in order to explore it fully, your students need to understand what the statement means. So play around with drafts and ensure it is understandable before finalising it. Keep it as succinct as possible.

-It should connect the key concept, related concept(s) and the selected global exploration meaningfully.

-It needs to be worth inquiring into, so meaningful and relevant for the year group.

-It should not mention unit specific content (fractions, logarithms, scatter graphs etc.) as it should be transferable to other units and/or other subject groups.

-It can be explored by students using the content assigned to the unit.

-It can use related words/phrases to replace the concepts if that helps it to flow better.

As an example, we’ll have a look at a couple of our MYP1 units.

In the first unit, the purpose is for students to realise that numbers can be used to describe themselves (age, number of video games owned, time taken to travel to school) and that this information can be presented in a structured way. The statement of inquiry needs to connect “logic”, “representation” and “describing self” (or similar words/phrases) to present this purpose to students. This could lead to a sentence along the lines of:

“Individuals can present information about themselves in a logical way”.

Here, the key concept is shown through the word “logical'', the related concept through “present” and the global exploration through “information about themselves”. Since none of the content was mentioned, this statement could be used in other subjects - for example in language with students constructing auto-biographical poems or in art with students creating a self portrait.

In this unit, the purpose is to encourage students to redesign products so that they use fewer materials while optimising their use. If you find it difficult to jump straight into drafting a statement, try one of these two approaches.

  • Write a more comprehensive statement about the purpose of the unit which you can then simplify and refine. E.g. students should inquire into how to design products which meet the dual aim of maximising space, but minimising resources. These designs don't always have to use exact measurements - the optimal form can be identified with approximate values, estimates and rough calculations.

  • Jot down a few phrases using the concepts and context which you can later try to piece together. This could involve synonyms of the original words or combining two or more of the words. E.g. form products, form designs, approximation/estimate/rough draft/non-exact, approximate measurements, space/dimensions, sustainable/environmentally friendly/minimise materials.

A sentence could therefore be:

"Sustainable designs which optimise space can be formed using approximations".

Moving on to inquiry questions! The aim of the inquiry questions is to explore the statement of inquiry further, therefore they should be inspired by the key concept, related concepts, and the global context exploration. Questions can be developed by the teacher but developed in collaboration with the students. They should guide student inquiry and learning, provoke curiosity, and promote deeper thinking. There should be at least one factual, conceptual and debatable inquiry question, but in likely there will be more with mostly factual, a few conceptual and one or two debatable. Again they should be engaging and transfer beyond the unit’s content and time should be set aside to actually address them throughout the unit - so less is more!

Factual questions have the aim of checking the knowledge and skills required. This may link to defining terminology or recalling facts. They are still inquiry questions and therefore should still prompt inquiry. They tend to be seeking a specific answer (a single one or a range) so they may start with ‘what’ or ‘which’.

Conceptual questions analyse the bigger picture of the unit. They can look at the relationships between elements and unpack the concepts further. They are phrased as open-ended questions which often have multiple correct answers. “How might” or “why would” are more likely sentence starters to lead to thoughtful inquiry.

Debatable questions are designed to provoke discussions leading to a decision that can be justified. There is no ‘right’ answer, different perspectives are valued and can be better argued using understanding gained from the unit. As they lead to an opinion being formed they may start with phrases such as “to what extent”, “do”, “is” or “should” resulting in a judgment being made. An example of each for our units may look like the following:

Statement of inquiry: “Individuals can present information about themselves in a logical way”.

Factual: What is logic? What information can we share about ourselves?

Conceptual: Why might individuals share information visually?

Debatable: What is the most logical way to present information?

Statement of inquiry: "Sustainable designs which optimise space can be formed using approximations".

Factual: What are different ways to approximate?

Conceptual: How does approximation impact accuracy?

Debatable: In business, should profitability be a priority over sustainability when designing products?

If you have any questions, please send a direct message or ask via social media.