Book Review: The Power of Inquiry

IMG_9564Teaching through inquiry is like handling a slippery fish.

Just when you think you have got a grasp on it, the fish is flailing on the floor.

Inquiry seems so simple. It starts by asking really good questions.

What is inquiry learning?  What isn’t inquiry learning? What does inquiry learning look like?

Which leads to the slipperiest question of all:

How do inquiry teachers teach?

Kath Murdoch answers that question in her new book The Power of Inquiry.

Often books about education fall into one of two categories. The first type are books thick on research with big ideas that will take a lot of time to analyse and apply to the classroom context. The other group, are full of quick fixes for the classroom that upon further examination aren’t rooted in a strong pedagogical foundation.

What I love about the Power of Inquiry is how Kath seamlessly navigates between the two worlds. The research and thinking behind the frameworks showcased in the book are robust. I often found myself reflecting on my own practice and noting down future reading as I made my way through the book.

However, the  book’s strong foundation of pedagogical research isn’t at the expense of accessibility for the busy classroom teacher.  The Power of Inquiry looks at teaching through inquiry from a variety of stances; creating a physical space conducive to inquiry, planning, assessment, documentation i-Time, building a school culture of inquiry to small changes in teaching techniques to deepen children’s learning in the classroom.

Each section has  ideas and suggestions that can be easily implemented by tweaking existing teaching practices as well as frameworks to develop learning.  As I made my way through the book, I often found myself thinking ‘I need to do this with my kids in the next unit…’


That was another conception slipping through my grasp.

While the ideas showcased are highly accessible for busy classroom teacher, the hook is in their implementation.  A key theme of the Power of Inquiry is that teachers need to be purposeful in their engagements and interactions with children as well as each other.

As a teacher who enjoys pushing boundaries, the Power of Inquiry has me reflecting on the need to:

  • Create time and space.
  • Be clear on purpose.
  • Listen.
  • Observe.
  • Reflect.
  • Ask for feedback assistance.

My only criticism of the book is that isn’t yet available electronically and it is physically large to carry around. However, the book’s wonderful images and well-laid out resources are why the Power of Inquiry will quickly become one of my teaching bibles.

I am already re-visiting sections in the book as I plan out the first few days at school and plan to return to this book when I find myself in need of inspiration. There’s no doubt I will start annoying my co-workers by repeatedly pulling it out when we get stuck during planning meetings.

The Power of Inquiry would make a marvellous gift to a new teacher setting up their first class. I also hasten to add that the book would also appeal to experienced teachers looking to stretch their thinking as well as  school leaders looking to grow a culture of inquiry within their school.

One thing I’ve learned about teaching through inquiry, is you are never done learning. Just when you think you’ve got a grasp on the concept, the fish is flailing on the floor.

But that’s what makes inquiry so interesting…

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