Inquiry based learning and PD

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation

Performance Indicator B

Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

This week we investigated the Triggering Event: What digital age best practices should be addressed in professional development and how should this be accomplished?

In relation to that I posed the question: In what ways can adult higher thinking and inquiry be promoted and supported within professional development?

Before I could begin to understand how inquiry based learning related to adult learning, it was important to understand what it was and the principles and factors that guide it. I found a great resource from eLearning Industry that describes teaching with an inquiry model. The infographic below highlights the most important characteristics of inquiry based learning.

How do we incorporate inquiry based learning into Professional Development?

We have all been to numerous PDs that never seem to resonate. I have been to PDs that are lectures following a powerpoint presentations or PDs that seem disjointed and disorganized with no clear relevance to me when I walk out of the door. Don’t get me wrong, I have been to several great PDs where collaboration and deeper thinking took place, but they are few and far between.

In a blog post called “The Principal of Change,” George outlines inquiry based learning and professional development. He lists the benefits of structuring PD around learning like this:

  • Experiencing a powerful learning opportunity as an adult to understand what it could look like in the classroom.  To be a master teacher, you must first be a master learner.
  • Unleashing the innovative potential of the adults in the building and creating an environment where risks are not only encouraged, but time is created to actively take them.
  • Focusing on the importance of research based on passions as an important element of learning.
  • Empowering staff in the creation of improved learning environments and giving them real opportunities to lead in the change process.

All of these benefits align with the best practices of designing and implementing quality PD. The idea that a facilitator can pose a question that drives PD and the entire learning process is powerful. He continues to paint the picture of what this could look like:

I was thinking about having an overlying question to guide other questions.  This question would be, “Why do we…?” For example, a question that could be created by a group of staff based on interests is, “Why do we have student awards?”, or “Why do we use report cards as our main assessment tool?”  Not all of the questions necessarily need to start with “why”, but it is mainly to challenge the assumptions that we have about the process of school.  

The blog post poses these ideas as a starting point, but leaves the next steps wide open. This is an idea I would like to investigate further. It would be amazing to be able to take these PD ideas to my school leadership, or design future learning that I am involved in around.



G. (2015, April 04). Inquiry Based Professional Learning. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from

Pappas, C. (2015, September 12). Instructional Design Models and Theories: Inquiry-based Learning Model. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from

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