Inquiry Cycle: Why, What and How?

At my school, we use Kath Murdoch’s Inquiry Cycle. Many of our staff are new the PYP and new to inquiry-based teaching and learning, so we find this inquiry cycle provides some structure to the elusive process of inquiry.

inquiry cycle black and white

How do I use the inquiry cycle?

What do the different stages of the process look like?

 These are common questions we get from our first and second year teachers as they try to make sense of the inquiry cycle. I came across this graphic which outlines some guiding questions for each phase of the cycle. I found it quite helpful for my own understanding of inquiry and plan to share it with our teachers soon!


Sometimes I find we overthink the process of planning for inquiry – when really it is just the natural stages of human curiosity! These questions can serve as a great way to structure the process of inquiry with the students, instead of for the students. What would happen if we posed these questions directly to students and helped scaffold and guide the processes they come up with? Could that guide a whole Unit of Inquiry? Would we need much other ‘secret teacher business/planning’? Or could our time be spent planning the way in which we want to present these questions to students and how to support and organize their processes?

There is also a great blog post written by Kath Murdoch entitled Busting Myths About the Inquiry Cycle which may help to deepen your understanding of the benefits and limitations of using such a cycle in the classroom.

Let me know what you think! 

8 thoughts on “Inquiry Cycle: Why, What and How?

  1. Ellen September 11, 2016 / 7:25 am

    Thanks for sharing! I love Kaths inquiry model however I modify the Tuning In phase because I think the focus here is not on questioning the students about what they know, but setting up provocations to ‘tune them in’ to the inquiry. At the beginning of an inquiry students often don’t know what they know nor what they want to know!


  2. Alana Gerrand April 8, 2018 / 3:25 am

    Hi Ellen, I think the Tuning In phase is about all three things: Tuning students into the inquiry concepts, tuning into the students- what do they already know? Where are we starting from? (What misconceptions do we have?) and also: activating their prior knowledge- so they can then connect and construct their understandings from what they already know and understand.


  3. Courtney December 7, 2018 / 5:57 pm

    I really like this visual of Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle with the questions embedded. Is this available for download anywhere?


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