Implementing Inquiry Based Learning into the Elementary Classroom

The  third grade team at the school where I teach implemented an inquiry based learning project. We started drafting ideas in October of 2013 in hopes of the project being completed and ready for our students within two weeks. We each had between 26-28 students in our classes, with a variety of learning levels. One of our main objectives was to provide learning opportunities through differentiation. We met with our technology resource instructor, a team of special education teachers and our gifted resource teacher. The first meeting was extremely chaotic as none of us thought to draft a project plan. We were basically looking for feedback and ideas for different types of learners on different levels. The lack of a project plan was our first mistake and resulted in a lot of wasted time for everyone involved. “Plans should always be in writing. A written plan helps the project manager clarify details and reduce the changes of forgetting something” (Portny et al, 2008).

The team members were very excited about the proposed project idea and felt that it was something that would provide an excellent learning opportunity for the third grade students but after the first failed meeting, the third grade team felt the need to draft a plan to explain detailed goals and objectives, a time frame as well as resources that would be needed. We were relying heavily on our technology resource facilitator to create the technology tools needed for the project so we felt that we also needed to meet with her one on one.

It took us about three weeks to get the project in order and set up for our students and we learned a lot about project management along the way. Looking back I realize  we left out the start phase and jumped right in to planning and structuring the project. “Time pressure often leads project managers to assume the start phase is a waste of time. However, a project team needs to take time to define its procedures and relationships before jumping in to the actual project work” (Portny et al, 2008).

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



  1. Nice job, Towngirl701. I appreciate the great example of a struggling project because of failure to plan. We get so excited about creating a new learning object sometimes that we rush right into it. Thanks for the lesson in “beginning with the end in mind” (Covey, 1989).

  2. Krista,

    This is a fine example of the need to plan first. I always think of the old saying look before you leap and I can see how your project could have really used that advice. I myself had a very similar experience in which i discussed in my blog this week. The difference from my experience and your is that I did not take the time to adequately plan the project results with the client (my supervisor). My project ended with my supervisor making large edits on my deliverable and a lot of egg on my face. I think that as people we get so excited to help or create something new that we jump before we really look at what is needed to do to make the end result possible. It is good that your project was completed even with the delay and I think we both have learned a great lesson on planning ahead.

  3. Krista, I feel so bad when I read about how efficiently other people plan and how poorly I plan my projects even to this day I find myself missing things. Portny, S. E., et al., (2008) says that every project plan should include “Budgets of required personnel, funds, equipment, facilities and information.” (p. 78). I fall short each time and either forget something or I do not go into enough detail. It is very wrong of me to feel good about a project I accomplish yet it could have been done SO much better. My experiences should teach me to take my time in planning, but I get side tracked so easily sometimes and I tend to leave things undone. I have improved leaps and bounds at it, but I still lack in the planning faze. Great Post!
    Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  4. Krista,

    Great post. I agree with your comment about the plan needing to be in writing. I just recently proposed to my staff that we draft a list of responsibilities for committee members. My staff members we reluctant to put anything in writing. It does seem as though it is common to skip the first few steps and jump into the project.

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