An enquiry approach, with an emphasis on deepening understanding, is applied for the majority of subjects. Alongside the statutory National Curriculum, learning evolves by following a specific line-of-enquiry in the form of an open question driven by a main subject. These ‘Big’ questions are deliberately open ended to ensure a broad methodology including feelings, attitudes and understanding. It enables children to go beyond memorising dates and facts to develop new skills or deepen existing ones through an engaging cross-curricular approach.
Benefits of an Enquiry Curriculum
- It is planned around the distinctive needs of the children
- It nurtures children’s passions and talents
- It encourages curiosity and a love of learning
- It has a clear outcome, designed to raise standards
- It gives a real context for the application of basic skills
- It allows writing to be meaningfully embedded.
- It is interesting for the teacher as well as the children
- It increases motivation and engagement
- It integrates empowering learning (learn to learn)
- It values the voice of the child
- It enables pupils to take ownerships over their learning and reach their goals
- It is underpinned by leading research about quality learning and brain-based learning.
Planning an enquiry curriculum
At Hollickwood, we believe that choosing the right context to engage our children in their learning is vital in fostering a love of learning and also maintaining our high standards. Therefore, active planning input form the children is integral to our enquiry based curriculum; we want the children to feel that they are able to drive part of their learning journey. This is essential to ensure that the curriculum meets the ongoing varied needs and interests of the children.
Each step of the learning journey is explicitly shared with children in order to ensure they connect to the big picture of their learning, i.e. knowing what to expect. Each class has an Enquiry Working Wall display that includes a representation of the learning journey, which is referred to and added to as the unit of work progresses.
Learning enquiries are creative in their approach to appeal to the range of learning styles within the class and to provide opportunities for practical experiences that enrich learning.
Enquiry Curriculum Process
An overarching line of enquiry is presented to the children. This is in the form of an open ended, thought provoking question. Children activate and record relevant prior knowledge on a Knowledge Harvest.This tool is used throughout to support a range of metacognitive strategies such as planning, monitoring and evaluating.
Teachers provide an initial stimulus experience that helps children connect with the content and skills of the unit of work. These can take many forms, e.g. a visit from a Buddhist, finding a message in a bottle, a video diary excerpt, religious items of clothing etc. It aims to ignite their imagination and open their minds to a new and exciting learning journey.
A main subject drives the planning for a series of skills-based learning opportunities from different curriculum areas. These opportunities are all linked to the enquiry question and give children the background knowledge they need to develop their learning. We ensure that the relevant objectives from the National Curriculum are covered and each child's progress is assessed against these objectives. Lessons also ensure that children understand the different social, moral and cultural contexts that exist both within their direct experience and also in the wider world.
At this stage, children are immersed in the skills and knowledge they will need to reach a conclusion. This will involve building on their prior knowledge by the teacher modelling certain skills and then teaching the specific knowledge the children need. Once children have developed their background knowledge and skills, they are given the opportunity to decide how they would like to take their learning further. Children are encouraged to steer the learning by posing questions that they want to know more about. Teachers refer to children’s questions throughout the unit of work so that children can see that their contributions are valued and their questions drive their learning.
The children are then given the opportunity to put their skills and knowledge into practice during this phase of the enquiry: they are encouraged to make mistakes, ask questions and use a range of resources to find out what they want to know. Teachers explicitly teach and model to the children how to plan and monitor their line of enquiry so they can consider what appropriate strategies they will use to approach and conclude the task. They will be encouraged to think about how to effectively organise and manage their learning independently and in groups whilst assessing their progress throughout. The activities in this phase should challenge, motivate and build on skills to ensure the final concluding activity is a successful as the children are equipped with all the knowledge and skills that they need.
The culmination of the enquiry has an agreed outcome that is shared with the children and may be negotiated with the children. e.g. exhibition, PowerPoint presentation, class debate etc It looks at what the children have been working towards for the duration. It provides the children with the opportunity to use all the skills and knowledge they have acquired to achieve something real and rewarding. This phase must provide also lead to the children being able to answer the original Enquiry question plus answers to the children’s own questions.
At the end of each enquiry there is a reflection, evaluation and celebration of learning. This focuses on what has been learnt, how it has been learnt and what their next steps in learning could be; we want the children to become reflective learners. This can be seen on the Knowledge Harvest of each theme – children re-visit the page. Children share learning reflection activities with the rest of the school and community or making the outcome available online for others to access. We feel it is very important that the children have their hard work acknowledged and also used as inspiration for others.