Issues Associated with Introducing an Inquiry Approach to Teaching, Learning and Assessment in a Queensland School: Part Three

In order to develop learners who can think in complex and creative ways, and who are knowledgeable with deep understanding of the world in which they live, it is necessary to expose students to learning opportunities which explore problematic issues of knowledge in a challenging manner.  Adolescents need learning challenges in an environment characterised by high expectations and constructive, honest feedback (Barratt, 1998: 30).  This involves learners in evaluating the nature of the evidence they use and in the investigation of questions to which the answer is not clear cut or predetermined.  The level of complexity of the research task should be within the range Vygotsky defines as the "zone of proximal development" - the optimum range for effective learning to take place.  The ZPD is the range of potential each person has for learning. (Wertsch, 1991)


The “ZPD” is a ‘challenge’ area situated just beyond what the student knows or can do now but not so far beyond as to be impossible to reach.  Using the analogy of a high jumper, the ZPD would involve raising the bar high enough above the jumper’s current ‘personal best’ to present a meaningful goal and challenge, but not so far that it becomes a seeming impossibility and the jumper gives up.  Central to such a philosophy of learning is the belief that academic self-esteem rises from successfully meeting a challenge. (Gross, 2000). This concept would seem to be supported by Renate Caine’s investigations into ‘brain-based learning’ (1994).  Caine argues that Learning is enhanced by challenge but inhibited by threat.  Where students feel disempowered and a sense of helplessness (threat) they ‘downshift’ and underachieve or drop out. 


Inquiry based investigations can address this need for appropriate challenge by providing differentiated questions for research, differentiated methodologies for investigation, and differentiated products which present research findings.  Research conducted by the Centre for Performance Assessment suggests schools which demonstrated high levels of student success in a wide range of assessment contexts had a “laser-like focus on student achievement”, had clear standards of excellence and “no compromises on these expectations for quality”.  The challenge for teachers in the middle years is to ensure a consistent focus on intellectual quality and rigor is maintained.




Aditomo, A, Goodyear, P, Bliuc, AM & Ellis, R (2013), ‘Inquiry-based learning in higher education: Principal forms, educational objectives, and disciplinary variations’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 1239–1258,

Abbott-Chapman, Joan & Hughes, Phillip, (October 1991) “What Makes a good Teacher?”  Paper Presented to the 21st ATEA National Conference, Melbourne.

Australian Curriculum Studies Association (2003) “Middle Schooling Principals” accessed February 24 2005)

Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (1994?) “Middle School Policy” accessed November 22, 2003

Barrat, R (1998) Shaping Middle Schooling in Australia: Report of the National Middle Schooling Project ACSA: Canberra

Beane, J (October 1991) “The Middle School: The Natural Home of Integrated Curriculum” Educational Leadership 49 (2) 

Braggett, Eddie (1997) The Middle Years of Schooling Kawker Brownlow: Cheltenham, Vict

Bigelow, B, Harvey, B, Karp, S & Millar L (2002) Rethinking our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice Rethinking Schools: Milwaukee, WI

Catholic Education Office (2004) “Pathways for Middle Schooling: Walking the Talk”  accessed April 5th, 2005

Caine, R., and G. Caine. (1994). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley.

Carnegie Corporation of New York (??) “Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century”  accessed April 2 2005)

Cassie, Fiona (2004) “On Task or Off the Planet?” Education Review April 14-20

Cerezo, Nancy (2004) “Problem-Based Learning In The Middle School: A Research Case Study Of The Perceptions Of At-Risk Females” National Middle Schools Association at accessed April 5 2005)

Cumming, J (ed) (1998) Extending Reform in the Middle Years of Schooling ACSC: Canberra

Education Queensland (2000) “Queensland State Education 2010” Queensland Government: Brisbane accessed March 11, 2005

Education Queensland (2004) Middle Phases of Learning State School Action Plan

Erikson, H L (1995) Stirring the Head, Heart and Soul: Redefining Curriculum and Instruction Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA

Gordon, K (1999) Inquiry Approaches in Primary Studies of SOSE KLA  Queensland School Curriculum Council: Brisbane accessed June 22, 2005

Hardingham, R (2000) “Reform in the Middle Year” Middle Schooling: An Information Paper prepared for Education Queensland Queensland University of Technology: Brisbane

Hargreaves, A (1994) Changing Teachers, Changing Times: Teachers’ Work and Culture in the Postmodern Age  Cassell: London

Hoepper, B and Land, R (1996) ‘Planning investigations” in R. Gilbert (Ed.), Studying Society and Environment: A Handbook for Teachers. Macmillan: Melbourne,

Holden, Steve (2004) “Making Schools Better” Professional Educator 3 (4) October

Kamener, Larry (2005) “Creating and Sustaining a performance and Development Culture” EQ Australia Curriculum Corporation: Carlton, Victoria.

Kemmis, S,  Cole, P and Suggett, D (1983) Orientations to Curriculum and Transition to the Socially Critical School, Victorian Institute of Secondary Education: Melbourne.

McIntyre, Donal (1991) “The Oxford University Model of Teacher Education” South Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 19 (2)

Masters, G. (2016), ‘Five challenges in Australian school education’, Policy Insights, ( 5), Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER),

Murdoch, K & Hornsby, D (1997) Planning Curriculum Connections: Whole-School Planning for Integrated Curriculum Elanor Curtin: Armadale, Victoria

MCEETYA [Melbourne Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs] (2008), Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians, MCEETYA, Carlton South, Vic.

Nayler, J (1999) Inquiry Approaches to Secondary SOSE KLA Queensland School Curriculum Council: Brisbane accessed June 22, 2005

Pinar, William F (Summer, 1992) “Dreamt into existence by others: Curriculum Theory and Reform” Theory into Practice 31 (3)

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), (2015) Year 7 -10 History Australian Curriculum in Queensland, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority: Brisbane

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), (2019) Senior Ancient History Syllabus, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority: Brisbane.

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), (2019) Senior modern History Syllabus, Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority: Brisbane

Reis, Sally et al, (1992)  Curriculum Compacting Hawker Brownlow: Melbourne

Romanish, Bruce (1991) Empowering Teachers: Restructuring Schools for the Twentieth Century University Press of America: Lantham

Ross, E Wayne, Cornett, Jeffery W & McCutcheon, Gail (1992) Teacher Personal Theorising: Connecting Curriculum Practice, Theory and Research  SUNY: New York

Seaton, Andrew (2001) “New Wine Demands New Bottles” EQ Australia Spring

Smith, Robert (1993) “Potentials for Empowerment in critical Education Research” Australian Educational Researcher 20 (2)

Smyth, John (Summer 1992) “Teachers’ Work and the Politics of Reflection” American Educational Research Journal 29 (2)

Stenhouse, Lawrence (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum Research  and Development Heinemann: London

Tomlinson, Carol Ann (1999) The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners  ASCD: Virginia

Tomlinson, Carol Ann (1992) “Gifted Education and the Middle School Movement: Two voices on teaching the Academically Talented” Journal for the Education of the Gifted 15 (3) pp 206-238

Van Tassel-Basks, Joyce (1992) “Developing Learner Outcomes for Gifted Students” ERIC Digest #E514 Council for Exceptional Children: Reston, Va.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Waring, Felicity & Pat Kiddey (2001) Success For All  Curriculum Corporation: Carlton 

Wertsch, J. V. (1991) Voices of the mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

“What Makes Teens Tick?” (2004) Time May 10

Related Articles

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day

Blackhawks Ice Hockey Club

Blackhawks Ice Hockey Club

Lest we forget. 🌹

Lest we forget. 🌹

Leave us a review