Methods to an inquiry based classroom

mind map

Image created by Nabeel Abed

What are provocations?

Provocations simply mean to provoke! They provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity, and ideas. They can also expand on a thought, project, idea, and interest.

They could be in any form…

  • An interesting photo, picture or book,
  • Nature (e.g. animals)
  • Conceptual (e.g. light)
  • Old materials displayed in a new way,
  • An interest that a child or children have,
  • An object (e.g. magnets, maps)
  • New creative mediums,
  • Questions (from any source – e. what is gravity?)
  • An event (e.g. a presentation, a holiday)

Provocations can be as simple as a photo of a rock sculpture next to some pebbles or as elaborate as a table with an assortment of recycled materials next to a book on robots and resources to make upcycled robots. Often though, provocations are simple and displayed beautifully to provoke interest. Similar to strewing, they are usually created as an option, not as a premeditated activity.

Ultimately, the intention of provocations is to provide an invitation for a child to explore and express themselves. It should be open-ended and provide a means for expression where possible.


Effectiveness of Inquiry-based learning


Simple Scenario

A teacher walks into the class with the students who all see a praying mantis on the floor, they huddle around astonished as to what it is.The teacher gathers around with them and then the questions begin to fly out.

What is it?
Where did it come from?
Can we keep it?
Why are its legs so long? Why is it brown/green?
Where does it live?
What does it eat?

And you can imagine the many other questions that followed. The teacher calmly answered some of the questions and then said to the students who are in grade 5 that it’s for them as homework to research more about it when they get home.

The students then prepared a place for it in the class and gave it stuff they assumed it would need for the night. The next morning they arrive and only to find that the mantis was dead.

Again questions began to flow,

How did it die?
Why did it die?
Where does it go when it dies?
Does it now become part of the cycle of life? What happens at a funeral?

And so the teacher again answers the many questions and the praying mantis has a legendary send-off by the students.

The point we take from this is that the teacher, when discovering the mantis with the kids knew that she had a plan for the day and needed to finish, however, she did not push the questions aside or even the mantis, she welcomed it because it opened a whole new way to learn…INQUIRY.

Of course, once the questions were done, she casually continued her lesson.Perhaps later on the students would do a topic based on the life cycle of an animal and they would always be able to reflect back to what was researched in the praying mantis incident.

Inquiry-Based Mini Lesson Plan – Example

“Teaching with Material Objects” – Lunch pail

Developed by:
Dianna Accordino – Wilson School District
Stephanie Procopio Lancaster-Lebanon IUB
Name of the lesson: Lunch Pails Discipline:
Language Arts / Social Studies

Target grade(s):
K – 2nd

Pennsylvania Standards Addressed:
Begin to develop an understanding of historical interpretation

Lesson Plan Procedure
Show a picture of the object to your class prior to visiting the Freyberger School.

Be sure  to:
Determine students’ prior knowledge of the content.
Introduce the lesson and how you will motivate or capture the students’ attention.  Determine how you will assess if the learning objective(s) was/were met.
Follow the step-by-step procedures that engage students in inquiry-based learning.

Descriptive Analysis:
What is this object? How do you know?
What does it look like? Describe it.
Who would use this object?

Apply Prior Knowledge:
Have you ever seen one of these? Have you ever used one?

Raise Questions:
Draw and write what you think it is or what you would use it for.
Develop Interpretation/Hypothesis Based on Evidence:
show a short video that includes children eating their lunch at school from the  1900s

Discussion about the video and what object really is.

Apply Information:
What would you have them do with the new information centers:

  1. Compare and contrast using a Venn Diagram
  2. Packing a lunch
  3. Book hook (picture books from the [or depicting] 19th century)
  4. Create your own lunch pail/box using recycled materials “thrifty”

Share Information:
Pictures/writing pieces
Which lunchbox/pail they would choose (then/now)



Taken from the Nabeel Abed Handbook on methods inquiry-based based learning classroom
© Nabeel Abed 2017 – All rights reserved 




The Nabeel Abed Academy is committed to providing high quality educational development to schools and their teachers’ through internationally bench marked programs and disciplines


We endeavor to be a regional network of high quality training and development for schools and education facilities with an uncompromising commitment in our role to prepare teachers ,students and individuals with the skills necessary to be able to continue in their roles as leaders and mentors to the future generation. We strive to offer an educational environment where a teacher’s skills are enhanced and the focus of 21st century methodologies are emphasized. Teachers and schools are exposed to the latest methods of teaching through the medium of technology.

Our Beliefs

Every student is different, and has a unique learning style.

  • Every teacher should be trained and equipped to deal with the different levels of students’ within the classroom.
  • Professional development that leads to life-long learning
  • That a school has a collaborative responsibility with the community
  • Students and teachers should develop an appreciation, tolerance, compassion and respect for the rights and cultures of all people.
  • That the multi-cultural diversity of students and teachers is an asset to the development of any community.
  • In honoring the Universal Declaration of Human rights by not discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin or other status.


Peer Assessment

In peer assessment, a collaborative learning technique, students evaluate each other’s work. This technique is often used as a learning tool, which gives students feedback on the quality of their work, often with ideas and strategies for improvement.  At the same time, evaluating peers’ work can enhance the evaluators’ own learning and self-confidence. Such an involvement personalizes the learning experience, potentially motivating continued learning. blog-resource-pic.jpg

When used in grading, peer assessment can give the teacher the much needed information on each student’s performance. For large online classes, it may allow inclusion of assignments where students’ creative work could not be graded reliably through automation or efficiently by teaching staff.

Peer assessment techniques vary considerably, and are often best understood through example.  To give effective, valid and reliable feedback to fellow learners, students need clear guidelines, training on assessment criteria and scoring rules, and practice with examples.  Before students are ready to give feedback to others, their assessments should be compared to staff-grading of the same examples for quality assurance.

How does peer assessments help students?

  • It engages students in the learning process
  • working cooperatively
  • thinking critically
  • giving constructive feedback
  • learning from critical appraisal received from others
  • managing one’s own learning autonomously
  • developing interpersonal skills and
  • developing an awareness of group dynamics

Strategies for peer assessment

  • Make it clear for students to understand why they are being involved in such a task
  • Criteria for peer assessment needs to be set out clearly
  • Develop peer assessment skills
  • Make it anonymous

Complement peer assessment processes with a formal and explicitly stated moderation process so that students can see that grading is reliable even while students have a significant role in it.


To ensure that students reflect critically and early during a large, summative assessment task such as a report or essay:

  • Use cluster groups
  • Have students present to their group a short draft of their work to date
  • Ask the group to give informal feedback to their peers on their progress
  • You can also have the group provide a formal assessment based on, for example, how well points are supported by evidence, as well as the style and presentation of the draft.

Teacher Resources

All teachers have the daunting task of creating worksheets which are time-consuming and can be stressful at times when thinking of content to add.Compiled below is a list of websites you can use to get worksheets for your classes.All grades and subjects,.Some of the links below also include lesson plan ideas and templates.

Just click the on the titles below to get endless resources…


  1. Super Teacher Worksheets
  2. Teachnology
  4. Teacher Planet
  5. TES
  6. TeacherVision
  7. Edhelper
  8. SchoolExpress
  9. BusyTeacher
  10. Student treasures



Technology in Education


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The big question today is; does technology benefit or hinder a child’s learning process? It is universally understood that technology has its benefits, however, there are those who believe otherwise.A quick search on google would pull up a plethora of information related to technology.
As we know, in theory, we can say whatever we like but in reality, proving our views is a totally different ball game all together.Some research shows that students who use technology actually perform worse than those who don’t and some studies show that technology is actually beneficial.

Many argue that social media can have many negative effects.Such arguments have been going on for many years now and will never end. What we do need to realize is that in everything that we do in life, there is good and bad, how we engage would ultimately categorize it for us. Today we look at social media as a blessing for the simple reason that we can easily connect with friends and family who are far away from us. We have the ability to make a video call, voice call, easily share our daily activities with video or photo, we can even have group chats and group calls.

Businesses today use social media as it has enabled effective communication.Technology in education has arisen in recent years in the form of E-schooling, and online applications that are created to streamline education. There is an abundance of apps related to education online. From online libraries to apps for math or science, even comprehensive tools to assess students’ progress, yet with all of this there is still negativity around the use of technology.

I love technology, I work through my phone as I am always on the go. Some choose their laptops while others may prefer their tablets. Classrooms and boardrooms are now equipped with smart boards to effectively enhance their experience. Schools take it a step further by creating an application that would allow teachers, parents and students to interact even while not at school. Students can submit their homework through the apps and teachers can provide feedback almost instantly. Parents can easily send teachers messages about their kids and vice versa. However, with all the capabilities we would still find a lot of negativity.

Many say that technology is a distraction. Kids have become anti-social, kids are facing eye-sight problems because of the constant use of mobile devices. I could say the same when the television had first come out, or when the radio had first been introduced. We need to be able to draw the line somewhere.
Technology is vital in today’s world. It is how the world operates now. However, we have to realize that we must set boundaries. Both teachers and parents need to play an important role. While the effects of technology are alarming, we cannot turn a blind eye to the actual benefits that it comes with. Students should learn to read a book, they should learn how to hold a pen and write. Students should be able to easily switch from technology and this is where parents and teachers come in. There needs to be limitations, there needs to be understanding.
Reading a book on a kindle is fun. But let’s remember that before we teach kids to read, we must teach them to imagine. Technology in education can be fun. Even social media can be fun and educational if used correctly.

Parents need to monitor tech use at home. Time must be equally divided. Teachers also should promote this. Parents need to constantly monitor what their kids are doing while using technology. Don’t just come home from work and then relax. Pay attention to your kids, monitor them, engage them and guide them. The issue today is that many kids don’t really have such a system at home. They are merely left to do as they please when they get home so that their parents can go out and enjoy themselves. If your child spends too much time on technology then yes they would develop eye sight issues, they would become anti-social, however, creating a balance, giving them other forms of activities to do, encouraging social development outside of technology may just help in strengthening their abilities to be responsible and be aware of the world around them.

Technology in education is establishing its place. Today the teacher is just the guide. In the past a teacher was the source of information, but today technology has changed that. A teacher’s job now is to facilitate the learning process and to facilitate in the best ways possible. Facilitation also includes regulating the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Schools must develop proper after-school development activities for students. Don’t just offer sport programs but other programs such as art, dance, drama, debating, community service, after school trips to the community to further develop their understanding and help them grow to become better independent thinkers who can also work in collaboration.

While I may be an advocate of technology, I am also a firm believer that education should also be facilitated through various means.
We all have different abilities and capabilities. What appeals or works for one may not, for another, but to conclusively state that technology is negatively affecting our kids is wrong. To everything in life, there must be a balance and if we can effectively balance our use of technology in and outside of school, then I think we would have no issues.
The biggest issue with the doubts surrounding technology today is the lack of parents’ regulation of their kids’ use of technology.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning is a student centered pedagogy where by students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge is more about knowing and doing. Project based learning students take advantage of technology to produce high quality collaborative products.

Teachers are not in school to impose habits or ideas into kids but is there as a guide for the kid to be able to select influences that would best affect the child.

The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke critical thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. A teacher is the facilitator, who would work with students in their tasks to frame meaningful questions and together find solutions that they need answers to.


Projects are focused on student learning goals and include Essential Project Design Elements:

Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management.

Challenging Problem or Question – The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.

Sustained Inquiry – Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.

Authenticity – The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.

Student Voice & Choice – Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.

Reflection – Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.

Critique & Revision – Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.

Public Product – Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the  classroom.


Why accreditation is such a mess

Accreditation agencies have been forced to play a regulatory role for which they were never designed—we need a new model going forward.

Everyone knows that institutions of higher education need to be accredited. Accreditation serves both students and the public good by providing the first indicator of a legitimate institution of higher education. But recent investigations of for-profit colleges and universities have revealed a problem in the accreditation process. Far from being an ironclad guarantee of higher education excellence, accreditation represents a binary evaluation of whether or not an institution satisfies the standards of an independent, non-governmental agency. Moreover, the agency is a membership club, a fraternity where obscure rules and rituals define the process. With the stakes being incredibly high—success equals access to federal financial aid programs—it is no wonder that accreditation has been accused of failing to protect students from the excesses of the for-profit sector.

We need, however, to look at the history of accreditation in the United States to provide some insight into current events.

From Peer Review to Agency Gatekeepers

The basic outlines of accreditation were established in the late 19th and early 20th century when the definition of a university was not yet settled. Accreditation provided clarity on what constituted higher education at the time by having existing institutions identify and endorse their peers. In other words, college was defined by other colleges. The standards focused on admission requirements, faculty qualifications, academic resources, and financial stability. The purpose was to make sure a degree at one institution would be recognized by another institution, especially for the purposes of graduate admission.

Fast forward to World War II. The new GI Bill required the federal government to identify the institutions that veterans could spend their tuition benefits on. Lacking any mechanism to do it themselves, the job was given to the states. It became a confusing disarray, with fly-by-night operators popping up to gain access to the financial windfall, and then disappearing with the profits. So the federal government tried again. In the 1950s, they decided to replace the states’ role in the original GI Bill with the accreditation agencies that had been around since the turn of the century. At the time, though, not all institutions were eligible for accreditation from existing agencies. So the federal government set up standards for recognizing accreditation agencies for the purposes of accessing aid. A set of new agencies emerged in compliance with the new rules. Accreditation brought order to the system. The federal government endorsed accreditation agencies, and the agencies endorsed higher education institutions. An innovative path to financial aid was forged.

Since the partnership between the federal government and accreditation agencies seemed to work for veterans aid, the same solution was used in the 1960s and 70s for determining eligibility for the student loan and grant programs under the Higher Education Act. Almost immediately, however, problems emerged. A system designed to collegially identify similar institutions to facilitate degree recognition and student transfer was being asked to serve in an increasingly regulatory role. Rather than assisting colleges in their natural drive for self-improvement, accreditation agencies now were expected to serve as gatekeepers for financial aid and safeguard the investment of the American taxpayer. The problems with this arrangement weren’t as immediately obvious as the states’ failures in oversight after World War II, but these accreditation agencies were equally unsuited to serve as the government’s eyes and ears for financial aid eligibility.

With no other option—creating a whole new bureaucracy to replace accreditation was never seriously considered—the federal government used its power to recognize agencies as a lever for change. Agencies were pushed to provide more transparency in their operation. They were encouraged to move away from input measures like numbers of books in the library and square feet of classroom space, to output measures that focused on the student experience. They were asked to document their procedures and provide methods for appeal of negative decisions. When technology and online learning came to the forefront, accreditation was expected to adapt its campus-based procedures to the virtual environment.

The Fundamental Problem Remains

But the underlying architecture remained unchanged. Accreditation is still fundamentally a private non-governmental body that sets its own standards and membership rules. Its regulatory role sits uncomfortably on top of an academically oriented culture that values collegial consultation over enforcement of external rules. The for-profit scandals of recent years demonstrate the problem. The recent collapse of Corinthian Colleges, for example, highlights the challenges inherent in the independence of accreditation. As lawsuits and investigations swirled around the school, and access to financial aid was curtailed by the federal government, Corinthian remained in good standing with its accreditation agency up until the moment it declared bankruptcy. How was this possible? The accrediting agency was applying its own standards, none of which were impacted by the problems that state and federal oversight identified. More broadly, of the dozens of problematic recruiting behaviors and poor graduation rates identified by a Senate committee investigating the for-profit education industry, few of these issues had previously been noticed or publicly revealed in any accreditation review process. And no for-profit institution lost its accreditation after the Senate findings were published.

Future Directions

The effectiveness of accreditation as a regulator is now under review. As a result, serious proposals have been put on the table to bypass accreditation and develop alternative procedures for access to federal student aid. The chummy nature of accreditation, in which currently accredited institutions get to sit in judgment of new institutions, is under attack. The secretive and opaque processes of institutional evaluation are viewed with suspicion. Policymakers and entrepreneurs alike are questioning the legitimacy of accreditation as a gatekeeper in higher education.

The bottom line is that accreditation is not set up to do the job it is being asked to do. But that is a problem as much with the expectations of government as it is with the capability of the accreditation agencies. Calls for reform and restructuring of accreditation have been regularly repeated over the last forty years. But the agencies have always been able to mollify their critics by demonstrating responsiveness to concerns and arguing for the value of their model of institutional assessment. This time seems different.

Accreditation could go in one of several directions. Agencies could continue their traditional role as gatekeepers for financial aid but act much more explicitly as an arm of the government. Collegial reviews would get replaced with compliance reports. Another path would involve accreditation opening up its eligibility requirements to include new and innovative educational providers alongside the more familiar colleges and universities. This would require the agencies to adopt a competency-based approach, for example, that focuses on whether learning occurs rather than where and how it occurs. A third option would be simply to reject the government’s attempts to change their purpose and relinquish their role as financial aid gatekeepers. The government, then, would need to either develop a new oversight bureaucracy for the task or find some private sector entity other than the accreditation agencies to do it.

Each one of these options represents a dramatic shift in the role of accreditation in higher education. Quite simply, the partnership between the agencies and the federal government, formed out of convenience in the 1950s, is breaking down. It’s not that accreditation failed at its job, but rather the job itself has changed to something accreditation was never designed to do. A new model needs to emerge to clean up the mess.

Kevin Kinser is an associate professor of educational administration and policy studies in the School of Education at University at Albany, State University of New York.