What is inquiry-based learning?

Inquiry-based learning is an educational approach that focuses on investigation and problem-solving. It is not a subject that is taught but rather a way that we design our lessons and units of work to ensure students are learning in a genuine and relevant manner. Inquiry-based learning is different from traditional approaches because it reverses the order of learning. Instead of presenting information, or ‘the answer’, up-front, teachers start with a range of scenarios, questions and problems for students to navigate.

Inquiry-based learning prioritises problems that require critical and creative thinking so students can develop their abilities to ask questions, design investigations, interpret evidence, form explanations and arguments, and communicate findings.

How do we use inquiry-based learning at CNPS?

At CNPS, we believe in developing students to be effective life-long learners who are successful, informed, motivated and productive members of the local and global community. We foster students to be able to communicate their learning in creative and effective ways to a broad audience.

Our inquiry program is based on Kath Murdoch’s cycle of inquiry, and incorporates learning in the areas of Science, Health, Civics and Citizenship, Geography, History, Economics and Business, Digital Technologies, Design Technology, Maths and Literacy.


We also use inquiry learning to embed the cross curriculum priorities into our programs. These are:

  • Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

  • Learning about Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

  • Learning about Sustainability

Instead of teaching ‘topics’ we use ‘big questions’ and concepts to guide each inquiry cycle and follow the cycle through as the students develop their knowledge and understandings. You might see or hear the term BQT (Big Question Time) used around the school and this refers to the time we specifically allocate to working on the current ‘big question’ with our class. We also embed the inquiries or big questions into our Literacy and Maths programs whenever we can. We have four big questions and these are the same across the school, however, they can be accessed and taught at different times by each teaching team. The big questions can be interpreted in different ways and focus on different curriculum areas based on what is relevant in that particular year level.

Throughout all learning at CNPS, we have five key learning assets that are embedded in every teaching and learning process. Our aim is for all students to become highly accomplished researchers, collaborators, communicators, thinkers and self-managers. If students can master these learning assets, it enables them to become self-directed learners who are active and engaged citizens.

CNPS believes in fostering and catering for 21st century learners through Inquiry curriculum and learning and teaching practices that:

  • Promotes collaborative learning and collaborative learning environments

  • Develops strong relationships between students and teachers

  • Fosters critical and creative thinking and design

  • Uses ICT to improve creative thinking and creative problem solving

  • Encourages and develops successful interpersonal and personal learning skills

  • Promotes active, connected citizenship to and through local community involvement and global interactions

Our Grade Prep – 6 Inquiry learning assists and enables students to develop values, dispositions and independent learning skills to become successful, confident and creative individuals who are active and informed citizens.