Our Project Video “Inquiry across Classrooms” Included in the NSF STEM for All 2017 Showcase


In current practices, inquiry learning is often organized as short and scattered activities in individual classrooms. This research explores ways to support sustained inquiry and dialogue across classrooms. We tested a multi-layer interaction design: As students engage in focused inquiry and discourse within their own classroom’s online space, they review productive threads of ideas generated from their work and create “super note” reflection for cross-classroom sharing. The “super notes” serve as “boundary-crossing objects,” which focus on synthesizing the unfolding journey of inquiry using four scaffolds: Our research topic and problem(s)…, We used to think…, now we understand…, We need deeper research…  We upgraded Idea Thread Mapper to include a cross-community interaction space to support  inquiry and discourse across classrooms.

Following the multi-layer interaction design, a set of buddy classrooms from Albany, NY and Toronto, ON participated in collaborative knowledge building in shared scientific areas. Students used the “super notes” from other classroom as a resource to advance their inquiry, including those written by the previous student cohorts. Students found it highly motivating and rewarding to put their ideas in broader and actual use by other classrooms. Comparing the themes and depths of the inquiry work of different classrooms triggered deep reflection on their own inquiry. Students further adopted questions and ideas from other classrooms to develop integrated understanding.

We are developing an international network of inquiry classrooms. Students from Asia, Canada, and the US, will engage in collaborative inquiry of challenging issues facing the world today and accumulate a shared knowledge base over time.