For over two decades I’ve taught in settings as varied as poverty-stricken inner city classrooms, an elite private school, high-powered AP classrooms, and an arts conservatory. Inquiry-based learning is by far the most powerful teaching I’ve practiced because it enhances the rigor of instruction, while building critical thinking, problem solving, and participatory skills in students.

Last year I led twenty teacher-peer-leaders on an exciting, year-long journey of creating and implementing inquiry-based learning. It was the most rewarding professional development I’ve ever been involved in, and the results of our partnership were nothing less than extraordinary. Here's how Inquiry-based learning works...

1- Compelling Questions

Jonathan asking students to ask questions.

Many of our most profound learning experiences come as a result of questions. Children ask, what happens if I throw the ball this way? What does this taste like? As we grow older, questions guide us to mastery of complicated skills. What does a guitar do if I strum it this way? What jokes make my friends laugh most? Inventions and innovations come as a result of the inventor’s natural curiosity: what happens if I put 2 lenses together into a tube? Compelling questions make learning fascinating and powerful for all human beings.

2 - Mastery Activities

Learning with our feet.

We learn best by doing. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure helps, and in order to master any skill or ability you must practice it over and over. All the great poets, athletes, and inventors honed their skills, minds, and abilities through targeted and focused practice. Through mastery activities students become active learners and creators, mastering skills, ideas, and knowledge.

3 - Informed Civic Action

Jonathan and students working with Partners in Health in our annual Haiti orphanage project.

Imagine the World Series: the teams have practiced and prepared themselves for the big game. But when the time arrives, and the umpire steps behind the plate, instead of yelling, “play ball,” the umpire sends the teams to their desks where they must work alone to take a multiple-choice test. This would not be exciting, important, or be a good measure of any of the ballplayers’ abilities. And it would certainly not motivate much training or enthusiasm from the players. But the end point of almost all schoolwork is a test. Actions speak louder than words.

Inquiry Learning Schedule

Day 1

AIM – Agenda, Intention, Materials

Who? Introductions

What? Compelling Question, Mastery, Action

Why? Reasons: experience based, evidence based

How? Modeling an example - practicing it - reflecting

Compelling Questions – Methods - Practice


Day 2

AIM – Agenda, Intention, Materials

What? Compelling Question, Mastery, Action

How? Modeling another example

Mastery – Methods & Sources - Practice

Action – Rationale & Methods - Practice


Day 3

AIM – Agenda, Intention, Materials

What?  Compelling Question, Mastery, Action

How?  Practical questions & challenges

Creating - Writing your own inquiry unit

Communication – Sharing your work


* This schedule can be abridged to fit into a one-day workshop format.

Professional development sessions includes free copies of all these resources for your teachers.

Professional development sessions can be paired with year-long support, mentoring, and coaching.

Interested in booking Jonathan for an inquiry workshop? Just complete the form below or email me at

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