Inquiry Myth #5 - Chocolate Cake for Dinner - AGAIN!!

In this series I aim to bust some common myths I often hear in my travels supporting teachers and schools in adopting an Inquiry Mindset for their students. My hope is that we can begin to inform colleagues, parents, and students as to what the reality of inquiry truly is. Please help this movement by sharing these with your PLN.

Here we go with Myth #5!

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Inquiry Myth #5 - Inquiry is chaos-unlimited student choice-cake for dinner!


  • Inquiry is not a free-for-all. It is choice and voice, with consideration given to person and purpose. Students must make meaningful choices that foster and increase curiosity and a love for learning.

  • Inquiry students progress in stages to go from dependence on teacher direction to having greater independence, making their own decisions for inquiry.

  • Inquiry is structured around grade level and curriculum. Students are still able to meet learning goals and master required skills, and they accomplish this with greater enthusiasm and engagement.

There is a common misconception that in inquiry students will always explore and even return to topics of little worldly relevance, depth of meaning, or conceptual understanding. I often hear concerns around video games as a topic for young boys and what of relevance or curricular connections can be made to such a topic.

And this is a valid concern. We know how critical literacy and numeracy as building blocks to lifelong learning and predictors of success.

I have several thoughts on the matter but for now I’ll boil it down to one.

If the topic is of high interest to the student then it should be of high interest (and priority) to the teacher. Bottom line. Whenever I observe students exploring something of high interest several things inevitably occur: engagement, achievement, relationship, confidence are all positively impacted.

Once we frame our understanding of student choice in this context our task then becomes supporting students in exploring their topic with a lens on our curriculum (dependent of course on our grade level and teaching area) and drawing connections that allow them to conceptualize and synthesize their topic to create a deeper and authentic inquiry.

Inquiry and student choice is not merely chocolate cake for dinner every night. It’s finding balance between curriculum and learning objectives with student wonders and curiosities.