At Orchard Grove Primary School, we employ the guided inquiry model to engage and support the students in their exploration of big ideas embedded in the Sciences, Humanities and Technology sections of the Victorian Curriculum.

Engagement and ownership are key elements in fostering independence in each student and a guided inquiry approach enables the students to develop real-world skills such as intrinsic motivation, teamwork, time management and personal organisation. The units of inquiry leverage the connections that exist between the core curriculum areas of English and Mathematics and embed them within other learning contexts, such as:

Science – History – Geography – Economics and Business – Civics and Citizenship – Design Technologies – Digital Technologies

Guided inquiry is an approach that’s appropriate for primary aged children and is a blend of explicit teaching and modelled inquiry designed to give students a base knowledge and understanding, then challenge them to think creatively and critically to solve problems suited to their age and experience. Students from Foundation to Year 6 are introduced to whole school umbrella concepts, such as:

Who We Are, Where We Are in Place and Time, How We Express Ourselves, How the World Works, How We Organize Ourselves and Sharing the Planet

These umbrella concepts are frameworks the teaching staff use to plan and embed learning experiences most appropriate to each year level. The learning experiences are structured as opportunities to apply knowledge and skills and take action in real-world, authentic situations. These range from designing a structure to withstand a force or carry a weight, to designing teaching tools to instruct younger students on a particular topic, to running a micro-business at a profit to raise money for charities, to creating and testing products designed to promote a healthier life. Each unit of work is then celebrated with either a peer review, peer teaching or an expo for other year levels and/or parents to showcase their learning.

Working in teams, planning effectively and compromising and negotiating their way to a successful outcome are vital life skills embedded in the guided inquiry process. The students use a wide range of digital and hands-on thinking and planning tools to develop their ideas, such as challenge rubrics, and digital teaching and learning tools. We encourage students to experiment and choose the tool best suited to the task, so they become aware of the intrinsic pros and cons of each type of tool. Sometimes a pencil and paper is quicker, sometimes using an app on an iPad is better. Each student needs to know what suits their purpose and learning goal best.

At Orchard Grove Primary School, we are committed to developing creative and critical thinkers; students who will grow into confident and capable independent learners. The guided inquiry approach, where learning is contextualised within real challenges with real audiences, is an effective and engaging way of achieving these goals.