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This is part six of a six-part series. Each page contains a video providing an overview of the contents of the page.

You can find the narrated slide show version of this web page at Vimeo (on the right)

As students finish making decisions and creating communications, it's time to think about the entire inquiry process and plan for future investigations.

At this point in the investigation, students become involved in assessing, evaluating, and reflecting on the process and product of inquiry. Was the project a success? What will I do next?

Carol Kuhlthau found students may possess feelings of relief and a sense of satisfaction at the closure of an inquiry. However they may also be disappointed in their lack of a concrete answer.

Before students finish their investigation, ask them to go back and see if there are unfinished questions or other loose ends. This is also a chance for students to think about future topics for exploration.

Let’s explore four elements of the reflection phase of inquiry. We'll start with metacognition and inquiry.

Metacognition in Inquiry

In Key Word Reflection (PDF), Danny Callison stresses that reflection occurs throughout the inquiry process. As students evaluate the credibility of a documents, they are reflecting on the quality of the content. As they weigh the pros and cons of two perspectives, they are reflecting on what they've found in the literature.

An essential element of reflection is the metacognitive activity of thinking about the process. Throughout inquiry, encourage learners to think about their thinking. Keeping a digital journal is way promote reflection throughout the process.

After rounds of questioning and exploring, assimilating and inferring, ask students to revisit the questions and goals of their inquiry. How did the project evolve? What did I learn? For instance, lots of people are concerned about mosquito control and pesticides.

Beyond discussing their thoughts or writing in a journal, ask students to create products that share their thinking about the process. Students might create a reflection collage.

Provide questions to stimulate thinking:

For instance,

Rather than just copying from Wikipedia, I thought about what a patient would really want to know about cancer.
I've explored the Spanish Influenza pandemic and wonder about future pandemics.
I photographed the process of building my catapult.
I used Glogster to share my thoughts about Darwin and evolution. 
GlogsterDarwinWordleNatural Selection

dog reflectionUse technology to help students visualize their reflection:

Ask students to include examples from their investigation. As a class, take photos throughout the inquiry process. Photograph that stack of books or desk filled with sticky notes. Assign different students to take photos of activities in the classroom. Keep these in a class folder that everyone can access. Images might include classroom photos, science experiments, or field trips. Go to Gettysburg (PDF) for an example.

Use Wordle or another word cloud tool to create a text visual of reflections.

A fun activity involves students in creating their own search story. The Google Search Stories Creator allows students to build a short video reflecting their inquiry journey. Students simply enter a series of search terms and whether they want to search text, images, maps, or news. Then, a short video is generated showing the experience of a search.



Assessment is the process of gathering, measuring, analyzing, and reporting data on a students' learning. It helps teachers determine how much children learned and how well they learned it.

Interacting with students about their performance can become an integral part of the learning process.

Assessment Tools

Checklists and rubrics work well for grading inquiry-based projects.



Explore Leslie Preddy's Rubric (All on One Page PDF) (Final Product PDF).

Rubricmakers such as RubiStar make the process of creating rubrics easy. Go to SimilarSearch for other examples of rubricmakers.


Explore Leslie Preddy's Checklist (Final Product PDF) (Research Journal PDF) (4x6 Card Book PDF) (Scrapbook PDF). Also, check out the folllowing checklists (Research Journal PDF) (Checklist Starter PDF).

Examine the Endangered Species Conservation Project checklist.

Think about the criteria you'll use for for evaluating inquiry-based activities:

Assessment Checklists

Use the following list to help you form your own assessment tool.

Checklist Items for Elements of Inquiry

Checklists for Thinking

We often focus our attention on products rather than thinking. Instead of counting the number of slides or mispelled words, why not concentrate on the thinking that went behind the production? Explore the following rubrics for ideas:


Evaluation involves judging the quality of student work or instruction. For example, it may include a final score or grade.

Process Peer Evaluation

Involve students in exploring the work of their peers.

Explore Leslie Preddy's Peer Evaluation (Part 1 PDF) and (Part 2 PDF).

Explore Leslie Preddy's Peer Conference (Option A PDF) (Option A2 PDF) (Option B PDF) (Option B2 PDF) (Option C PDF).

One advantage of using technology is the ability to share with the world through websites such as Flickr for images and YouTube or Vimeo for video. This is a great way to gather comments and suggestions from the public.

Self Evaluation

It's important that students have an opportunity for self-evaluation.

Explore Leslie Preddy's Self Evaluation (2 page version PDF) (3 page version PDF).

Inquiry Evaluation

Young people need to feel a part of the instructional process. Part of that process involves evaluating the entire inquiry experience and providing suggestions for future units of instruction.

Explore Leslie Preddy's Teacher Evaluation (PDF).

Educator Self Evaluation

At the end of your unit, consider doing an educator self-evaluation. What did you learn from the unit? What will you change the next time? What areas would benefit from mini-lessons or additional scaffolding?

Explore Leslie Preddy's Checklist (Educator Self Evaluation PDF) for ideas.

Inquiry Logistics

Inquiry-based learning can be integrated into single session activities or semester long investigations.


When completing long term projects, provide students with resources that help guide them through the process. Use mini-lessons to introduce, reinforce, or review key idea and information skills. For instance use interactives such as It's a Fact to review fact and opinion.

Create a bookmark that students can follow as they work through the inquiry process. Use Thinking the Road to Success (PDF) for ideas.


It's important that students concentrate on addressing their inquiry questions rather than focusing on a final product. As such, don't share the options and requirements for products until students have analyzed and synthesized information. For instance, you might photograph the process and have the images ready for a final project. Later students can concentrate on selecting images that represent their thoughts about the experiment.


It's useful for students to have a project timeline that they follow throughout the inquiry process. This timeline may include a checklist of requirements as well as suggestions for journal entries. Explore Leslie Preddy's examples" 3 Week, 3 Week Calendar, 5 Week, 7 Week, China, Civil War, Free Inquiry, Guided Inquiry, Middle Ages. Consider using Google Calendar so students can access the information electronically.

Parent Involvement

It's helpful for parents to be involved with an inquiry project. Explore a couple letters to parents created by Leslie Preddy (PDF 1) (PDF 2). Send letters or email home outlining the inquiry. Consider a culminating experience that involves parents.


Many teachers use contracts for inquiry projects. Explore a examples by Leslie Preddy (PDF 1) (PDF 2) (PDF 3).


This workshop used Danny Callison's framework for thinking about the inquiry process. However you may wish to use different model such as The Big 6 or my New Ws model. Let's explore an example of the inquiry process from beginning to end. Think about the types of investigations you might facilitate with your students.

Go to the World Without Fish for an example.


Facilitate Inquiry

Inquiries may go in different directions depending on the questions. While some inquiries look for answers, others seek solutions. The goal may not be apparent in the first round of the cycle. By encouraging inquirers to reflect throughout the process, inquiry becomes a cycle building deep understandings.

It's useful to provide questions as part of the reflection process.

Use guiding questions to facilitate inquiry:

  1. How did I move through the process?
  2. How does this inquiry connect to possible future inquiries?
  3. What are my new questions?
  4. Do I see patterns in my work?
  5. What if things were changed? How would the solution be different?
  6. What have I learned? How could I apply this to a future situation?
  7. What are the biggest ideas from the inquiry?

Inquiry is tough. Students who are accustomed to “copying and pasting” their way through a project may resist the idea of deep thinking.

Keep in mind that our ultimate goal is for students to become passionate about learning. When they leave school, we want them to choose to read, choose to do research before making a purchase, and choose to be life-long learners.

Key Standards



As you develop assignments related to inquiry, consider the information standards that can be addressed.

(Common Core Standards for Literacy Across the Curriculum Grades 6-8)

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

(Standards for the 21st Century Learner)

Conclude an inquiry-based research process by sharing new understandings and reflecting on the learning.

Monitor own information-seeking processes for effectiveness and progress, and adapt as necessary.

Reflect on systematic process, and assess for completeness of investigation.

Develop directions for future investigations.

Assess the processes by which learning was achieved in order to revise strategies and learn more effectively in the future.

Assess the quality and effectiveness of the learning product.

Assess own ability to work with others in a group setting by evaluating varied roles, leadership, and demonstrations of respect for other viewpoints.

Develop personal criteria for gauging how effectively own ideas are expressed.

(National Educational Technology Standards for Students)

Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.

Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.

Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.

Websites to Explore

Explore the following online resources to learn more.


Kuhlthau, Carol (2004). Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. 2nd Edition. Available through Libraries Unlimited.

Try It

Think about it...

  1. Design an assignment that asks students to reflect on the inquiry process using a unique product such as a poster, comic, or video.
  2. Try the Google Search Stories Creator. Describe how you might use it as part of an assignment.
  3. What elements do you think are important in the reflective aspect of inquiry? Why? What types of assessments do you think are most effective?
  4. Think about the logistics of an inquiry-based experience. Create a list of ideas, mini-lessons, guidelines, resources, rubrics, or other materials that you think will be valuable in planning.
  5. Share your personal history as an inquirer and learner. Create a Wordle to share your thoughts on inquiry-based learning.


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