Being An IB PYP Inquiry Teacher

I played around with the title of this article, largely because the job of an IB PYP teacher never looks the same from teacher to teacher. I tried, ' The Role of ....", then, " The Job of.." and finally settled on the above because basically job refers to the content  and role refers to the context . Our role and job, I felt,  can look quite different depending on the grade level, whereas being brings our own uniqueness to the role which amplifies the job. Make sense? I may be putting too much thought into it. Ha!

Anyway, the most common queries I receive from teachers new to student-led inquiry and the IB PYP is that they are seeking clarity as to how their job ( the content)  may differ from their previous teaching positions and what their new role ( the context) , will look like. Well, rather than simply providing a list like a job description, I created points that summarise  what happens as we make that shift from the traditional classroom teacher, to that of becoming a student-led inquiry teacher. Within each point, you will find links to previously written articles that will go further. So, in no order of importance, here is a summary of what we are, based on my years of experience as an international inquiry teach.

If you're new to student-led inquiry and the Primary Years Programme, WELCOME! Grab a drink, a pen and paper and read on.

 Oh and don't forget to grab your FREE guide with 10 ways to bring inquiry into your classroom TODAY! It has a fun, ready-made activity too! Just click here.

Being a Teacher-Facilitator

This is where the shifts begins. The title often causes confusion for many new to student-led inquiry. The biggest misconception is that student-led inquiry is a free for all - pick your passion and create  project. Far from it. Student-led inquiry is very much a planned journey of discovery. It is a partnership with the professional know-how of the trained teacher guiding the students with intention towards independent thinking; gently bringing their ideas and opinions into the plan. It begins with structure and progressive, gradual release as the children learn to navigate their way through the inquiry process. The facilitation wont look the same in every class or even every year. As facilitators, we are teaching the children to think for themselves, if not by themselves. We have thoughtfully designed our units of inquiry to provide learning experiences that demand questioning and critical thinking, creativity and investigation.  We know the standards that we will include and we are open minded enough to step away from the plan when the children's curiosity takes the lead.

"We have thoughtfully designed our units of inquiry to provide learning experiences that demand questioning and critical thinking, creativity and investigation. "

Get started with Student Led Inquiry TODAY![/caption] If you're looking to get started with student-led inquiry, I have several solutions that will offer professional development training.  You can choose to work through my complete online course, Essentials for Inquiry: Getting Started with Student-Led Inquiry or I have a mini  interactive digital workbook, Your Fast Start to Student Led Inquiry that links to various videos and articles shared on my blog and all together in one convenient location, with structure and guidance throughout to enable putting it all practice smoothly and confidently.

Being a Provoker of Wonder

Inquiry teachers sow the seeds to cultivate curiosity. We begin by modelling our value for curiosity, sharing our wonder as we gradually master the art of the provocation. We provoke to promote curiosity in our students and we teach them how to become active inquirers.

Developing conceptual understanding with key concept question stems.[/caption] Through carefully planned experiences that include the 21st century skills of questioning, investigating, researching, reflecting, thinking creatively and critically, communicating their thinking and embracing failure on their way, the children are always involved in stretching their thinking and adding their own direction to our plans. Thus we have a beautiful synergy of co-planning and learning. You can find a selection of provocation ideas in the article here. 

Being a Developer of Thinking Skills

Approaches to Learning Thinking Skills consist of multiple sub-skills. Develop those skills intentionally with focused activities.[/caption] Inquiry teachers go so much farther when it comes to thinking skills. We show the children what is going on in their minds and then we teach them how this can powerfully add to their knowledge and understanding. We teach them to think independently and to question, question and question some more. We teach them to reflect on their questions, to reflect on their learning and to reflect on themselves.  We do this by asking them guiding questions and going deeper through a conceptual lens. We want to develop inquirers. Inquirers ask questions and strive to find their answers. Inquirers become lifelong learners.

Being a Planner of Big Ideas

We plan through big ideas, we delve deeper through big ideas and we narrow the focus through big ideas. We teach through a concept-based approach. We understand that conceptual understanding is transferrable across disciplines and years.  We see beyond the list of facts, the topic titles and the standardised tests. We see the connections that our students make and we facilitate those personal connections bringing the learning out of the children, cultivating many beautiful aha moments as clarity dawns. ( You can access my free videos of concept-based learning here.) 

Being Purposefully Empowering

Inspiring student-led action is a part of our job. Learn more in this article.[/caption] We ignore the cliché and strive for empowering our kids. We know it all begins with purpose - guiding purposeful play, purposeful provocation, purposeful questioning, purposefully slowing down to look more closely, purposefully stepping away from the plans, purposeful reflection and purposefully listening to the children. We bring purpose to their learning. We listen to what matters to them, we ask what they want to know, what they want to learn and we give them the tools and the skills to find out for themselves. Purposefully.

Being Authentic

Exploring the concept of influence.[/caption] Inquiry based teaching has an authentic approach. We understand that the world doesn't fall into tidy disciplines and so we teach through a transdisciplinary, real-world approach. We bring authenticity to our plans as we bring a global context to the children. We use the child's world - home, school, locally and globally- as our sources for collaboration and our context for exploration and investigation. We know our global community. We recognise our children's diversity and we show them the value in their uniqueness.  We live our own Learner's Profile and we share our strengths and embrace our mistakes. We facilitate by listening. We teach by being. This is my experience of being an inquiry teacher. This is my experience of our commonalities. This is my opinion of our role. Most of all, we are a close community and I am delighted to be a part of this community with you. I'd love to have you share your thoughts or add to my list. Please do join in with our active community on Instagram @pypteaching. I'd love to meet you! 

Online Professional Development for Inquiry Teachers


P.S. If you are new to student-led inquiry, my online video training course, Essentials for Inquiry: Getting Started with Student-Led Inquiry can help you. Take a look at it here and feel free to reach out with any questions. I host LIVE focus groups for a small group of members several times a year.


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