Inquiry and the Key Concepts


Why is a commitment to inquiry and the construction of meaning important? 

Since its inception, the PYP has been infused with a spirit of inquiry. The ongoing implementation of the PYP is framed by means of questions such as "What do we want the students to understand and be able to do?" In seeking to answer that question, there is a commitment to refining what is significant and relevant, and to quality rather than quantity. It is believed in the PYP that meaning and understanding are undermined by an emphasis on coverage; and that students will become more enduringly skillful when the learning is authentic and in context. The curriculum in a PYP school should emphasize the active construction of meaning so that students' learning will be purposeful. 

Inquiry, as the leading pedagogical approach of the PYP, is recognized as allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning. Inquiry allows each student's understanding of the world to develop in a manner and at a rate that is unique to that student. 

What does inquiry look like? 

Inquiry, interpreted in the broadest sense, is the process initiated by the students or the teacher that moves the students from their current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding. This can mean:
  • exploring, wondering and questioning
  • experimenting and playing with possibilities
  • making connections between previous learning and current learning
  • making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens
  • collecting data and reporting findings
  • clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events
  • deepening understanding through the application of a concept 
  • making and testing theories
  • researching and seeking information
  • taking and defending a position
  • solving problems in a variety of ways

Watch Wildwood IB World Magnet School use the inquiry-based model to put students in charge of their learning, with lessons that stem from student questions and harness the power of curiosity.

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Assisting Discovery!    

Key Concepts in the PYP: what do we want students to understand? 

Why include concepts as an essential element? 

Central to the philosophy of the PYP is the principle that purposeful, structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenged students to engage with significant ideas. Hence in the PYP there is also a commitment to a concept-driven curriculum as a means of supporting that inquiry. 

The decision to structure the PYP curriculum around important concepts is driven by the following beliefs.

  • Education for the understanding of significant ideas has often been scarified for the memorization of isolated facts and the mastery of skills out of context. The expansion of the curriculum and the pressure to cover the syllabus have resulted in many students leaving school with superficial levels of understanding. 
  • By starting with the students' prior knowledge, and by confronting and developing their earlier conceptions and constructs, teacher can begin to promote real understanding.
  • The exploration and re-exploration of concepts lead students towards an appreciation of ideas that transcend disciplinary boundaries, as well as towards as sense of the essence of each subject area. Students gradually work towards a deepening of their conceptual understanding as they approach those concepts from a range of perspectives. 
  • Transdisciplinary units, where concepts are used to support and structure the inquiries, provide a context in which students can understand and, at the same time, acquire essential knowledge, skills and attitudes. 
  • A concept-driven curriculum helps the learner to contruct meaning through improved critical thinking and the transfer of knowledge.
  • Transdisciplinary concepts increase coherence across the curriculum. 
Which concepts were chosen and why?

A set of eight concepts were drawn up, each of which, it is felt, is of major importance in the design of a transdisciplinary curriculum. These concepts are: 

  • form
  • function
  • causation
  • change
  • connection
  • perspective
  • responsibility
  • reflection



How do we design instruction for deep learning that transfers to unfamiliar situations? Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction shows us how.

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