It’s an exciting time to be in education. Never has there been such a push toward creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking thrive. Many of us can now visualize an exemplary classroom where students are routinely and openly making mistakes and learning from them, where teachers promote student choice when possible, and where instruction is based on feedback and relevant to students’ lives. But too often we try to define what we’re looking for with detailed rubrics and multi-point implementation models.

Here is a simple way to gauge inquiry-based instruction in your classroom. Instruction is inquiry-based when…

  1. Students don’t know the “answer” they are “supposed” to get.

  2. Students play a driving role in determining their process for learning.

  3. Students are working just as hard as (if not harder than) the teacher.

Of course there are nuances and scaffolds to help you achieve success in all three of these indicators, but bottom line: instruction is inquiry-based when students construct knowledge and understanding through a process of discovery. Don’t feel like you have to tackle full-scale projects or completely rewrite your curriculum to achieve gains in student engagement and understanding through inquiry-based instruction. Try first using these three measures as a guidepost in creating more inquiry in your classroom, one learning experience at a time.