Enquiring Minds, commissioned in 2006 by Microsoft through its Partners in Learning initiative, was a four-year programme of work set-up to develop an innovative approach to curriculum and pedagogy centred on learners using an enquiry-based learning style. The project involved close engagement with teacher-researchers working in two schools with differing circumstances to create new approaches to teaching and learning.
From 2005-2008 researchers from Futurelab worked with teachers to develop approaches to curriculum design and classroom practice that explicitly started from the interests, experiences and concerns of students in schools. In both schools, distinctive Enquiring Minds sessions were established and trialled with students in Years 7 and 8. Researchers observed the Enquiring Minds programme as it developed, interviewed teachers and students, and conducted surveys to examine students’ interest and motivation.
Enquiring Minds explored how students' ideas, interests and experiences informed the content, processes and outcomes of teaching and learning in schools. It provided guidance and research to help support schools through the process of change and showed how schools can develop enquiry-based approaches to the curriculum, teaching, and learning.
The Enquiring Minds project showed that there is no simple prescription for fixing the curriculum. A traditional approach works in some contexts, and not others; locally distinct curriculum approaches can accomplish some educational objectives, but not all of them. The project supported the view that a National Curriculum is necessary, and that schools need to be equipped with strategies to manage and organise it to best meet the needs of their students. The approach endorsed by the programme was enquiry-based, with teachers and learners collaboratively negotiating the content and purpose of the curriculum to be investigated.
The primary output, a teacher’s guide to using Enquiring Minds, had widespread uptake in schools. Teacher workshops further expanding on the themes of the research also proved popular. The underlying research on which the work was based won plaudits for its honest account of the challenges presented in achieving schools transformation.
Find out more about Enquiring Minds
The Enquiring Minds website gives more information about what the project involved and offers practical resources for introducing Enquiring Minds approaches in schools, including a downloadable guide.