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Jeansonne | December 13, 2017

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There is a nifty ‘infographic’ at the end and a suggested lesson plan. Feedback is welcomed.

After attending Amy Burvall’s workshop, I tweaked the image to include intention and I have time to elaborate.  My blog posts are never “done” and always in draft mode. I liken it to thoughts running barefoot on the beach.

Sometimes, I like short and sweet inquiries.  I find this process might deviate from more popular purist models that might resemble a longer process and product.  It really depends on the intention and the outcomes I want to achieve.   I just have a different approach and metaphor that represents the cognitive challenge to students more than what I am doing as a teacher.

The model doesn’t address the teacher’s role or degree of involvement at each level.  In my experience,  it depends on the students, age, class composition, time of year, block (before lunch or last block of the day on a Friday) computer access, spring cascade of hormones, and well, you get the picture.  The art of teaching is knowing what pedagogy to use.

It is NOT a design thinking model (though you should check out Mary’s Deep Design Thinking or mine).

Instead,  it is about how students think and the depth of the questions they might ask.  As they go beyond level 1 or have more complex questions, they might need more skills, thinking models, and time with the information they are processing.

Keep in Mind:

Curiousity doesn’t need a big project.

Creativity and critical thinking is not pretty.

Critical thinking questions can have easy products.

Think ‘garage’ rather than ‘gallery’

Why a Short Inquiry?

My intention is to provide opportunities to develop a variety of skills.  Longer inquiry projects that take months to do may not develop the range of skills necessary to longer projects.

Creating a shorter inquiry keeps up the cognitive stress just enough to create a sense of urgency rather than procrastination. In my 20+ years of experience, many students are experts at cramming those large projects into a short amount of time.  It is more realistic then, to design shorter inquiries.

I can see who needs different opportunities for early on in the course.

Shorter inquiry allows students to build a broad knowledge base and perhaps discover interest they would not initially have ventured into.

Large projects can be overwhelming.  Sometimes, they can fall far behind and not feel that there is an on ramp back to success so struggling students take an exit.

If they miss a few short ones, it isn’t as significant as missing a long one.

Shorter inquiries can cycle into longer ones.

Using a layered approach allows for differentiation.  Teachers can challenge students at each level.  Sometimes the questions they design may be simple or complex.  Perhaps one student will look up Google Scholar while another will find simpler resources at their reading level. A teacher can assign points to the different options ie: google image is worth 1 point but a peer reviewed article is 5 points (see Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum). Teachers can focus on specific skills at each level or complete the entire process.

It allows for directed instruction if it is appropriate to the context.

Some cautions:

  1. model this process with students
  2.  Complete at least one i-Search DEEP  together as a class.
  3. To save time, you can provide the resources in the form of links or gallery walks even. Students may not know how to curate resources effectively and efficiently.
  4.  Help students design questions that are ‘doable’.  Some students will overwhelm themselves with their own enthusiasm and desire for an “A”.  You may want to set limits along the way.
  5.  Don’t get caught up in making things ‘pretty’.  The activities are about thinking creatively and critically where students can tinker with representing ideas (garage) rather than showcasing their best work in a gallery.  Make this clear because students have learned to be more beautiful than critical.

I have roughed out teacher notes and student instructions below.

Big Picture:


An i-Deep Search will create a collection of ‘artifacts’ on a topic. You will creatively and critically explain the connections or relationships between each  artifacts,yourself or other ideas.  You will evaluate your collection as a whole. Finally, you will publish your collection.


My previous work in portfolios stressed how reflection is one of the significant strategies to integrate new learning and for students to self-assess. It is a means of analysis but also a lovely loop of feedback between the student and community of learners.

There are many ways to approach an inquiry, but have a clear intent at the beginning can help focus students a bit more.  Again, it will vary according to your class and students.

Include time for reflection. it is necessary for students to stop and ‘take a knee’. There is personal accountability in metacognition and reflection.



Step 1- Brainstorm a  list of questions and ponderings about a topic.  You are not judging your questions in this step.  Sticky notes work well here.

Step 2- Select 3 questions to guide your inquiry.  You might find yourself more interested in one as you progress through your search.

Step 3- Revise your question as needed.

Step 4- List search terms and phrases that might help guide your internet search.  Break down your question into the ‘parts’.  Consider synonyms and antonyms as well.

Step 5-


This level may take on various forms.  Students may have read a novel and the idea is to explore a  topic until a theme or themes emerge. You might have a gallery walk already in your class. You might have a variety of resources available to focus student time.  You could do a jigsaw with students here too.  You might want to provide a student curated collection for discovery and later explanation.

You might want students to collect a variety or limit the collection in terms of the variety and the volume. Some ideas include: poetry, images, music, textbook, magazine audio books, interviews, or completed student work, photographs, remixes. rarely used words, various dictionaries, games, various types of websites, postcards, Open Culture resources, Gutenberg Press,, science experiments (on Youtube), videos, Math formulas, quotes from novels or historical figures, other languages or cultures.

Students are encouraged to make connections between odd sources. 

Again, as a teacher, you can keep this as narrow or as broad as you and your students need to. Not everyone can be on the net or has access to it. Not every student is comfortable with so many choices.

Possible Instructions

Step 1- Think of this as a scavenger hunt for all the ways your topic is might be represented. Eventually, a theme will emerge.

Step 2 – Search for your question or topic using Boolean search variations.

Step 3- Collect your sources in a well-managed format. Your teacher may request that you include a certain volume or include a specific variety.

  • Remember that each format you use will convey a different intent to your learning community and have a different meaning to you.
  • The intent of this level is to discover ‘what’s out there’.
  • Format of your collection can vary from website, MLA citation, portfolio, printouts, Wiki’s, webpages, DIIGo, Pintrest. Other______________________
  • How many sources:
  • Variety (Brainstorm here)

You might want to try this site Notice the menu that gives you options for various types of information.

E- Explain

Teachers can provide a list of possible representations of connected ideas. These may align with your subject, outcomes, or creative comfort.  You may wish to provide ideas to help students. Again, you may want to specify the variety and volume of explanations.

Be sure to discuss the student’s intention to include or exclude a source.

For example, a student might connect with a poem and create notes and doodles around it.  It doesn’t have to be pretty to show how ideas are connecting.

Possible Instructions

The intent of level 2 is to stretch your skills a bit more by finding the relationships and connections. You will need to make inferences about the artifact in your collection. 

You may feel a bit uncomfortable as you begin to make the information meaningful to you. That is OKAY and expected! Be comfortable with discomfort.

Look at your collection. Based on what you discovered, pull out the ideas that are significant to you. Examine your artifact.

  • What is meaningful to you.
  • What is interesting?
  • What is significant about the topic and the resources?
  • What are the relationships?
  • Why did you include it in your collection?

You could write a few paragraphs to explain your artifacts but creative and critical thinking is the goal.  Ideally, you will want to represent your learning with a combination of words and visuals.

  • diagrams
  • examples (as many as you can)
  • graphic organizers like Venn diagrams or charts.
  • analogies.
  • definitions with visuals.
  • (options can go here)
  • timelines
  • doodles


Evaluate your collection on your topic. You can design your own questions using the prompts or remix the following.

  • Does your collection create a specific intent?
  • Is there an apparent bias or worldview in your collection?
  • How might someone 2000 years from now misinterpret your collection?
  • Create a metaphor that might best represent your topic based on your collection.
  • How might you evaluate your work and why?



Share your collection with at least one classmate and another adult.  Ask for feedback (you can design the specific questions).  No matter how many levels you reached, you can outline your process, discoveries, and intentions.  Your collection can be digital or ‘old fashioned’.



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