The Ladder of Learning is the model of the Inquiry Process used at St Dympna's School. It is very similar to many of the other models of Inquiry Learning that teachers would be familiar with, however the aim of the Ladder of Learning is to develop a shared language throughout the school, with teachers and students all using the same terms to describe the various stages of the inquiry they are undertaking.

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L = Launch
The launch is a time when an area for inquiry is established. Initiated either by curriculum demands or student interest, a topic or issue is introduced and students are immersed in the content and context of this. Students’ prior knowledge of the topic is elicited, and ideas and planning for how the inquiry will take shape occur with varying levels of teacher support.

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A = Access
When students have generated an inquiry with their teacher, they need to access content knowledge and sources where they may locate additional information in order to meet the demands of the inquiry and to further clarify their thinking with regards to the area being studied. Formal teaching of concepts and content may occur during this time also, so that students have the skills necessary to make links between the new content knowledge they are gaining and their prior experiences and understandings. If the students are being required to present their learnings in a genre or format which is unfamiliar to them, explicit teaching of this may also begin at this stage.

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D = Develop
When the information has been gathered, students can begin to develop their responses to the inquiry, and organise the information into the form required for presentation. At this stage students would be researching, designing and constructing their responses to their chosen inquiry. The role of the teacher at this stage would be as a guide, assisting students in developing a plan so that their approach to the inquiry is divided into manageable steps, and continuing to teach skills as they are required as part of the process.

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D= Demonstrate
By this stage of the process, the students should have created some kind of response to the inquiry, and will be readying themselves to present their findings, research or constructions to the intended audience. This part of the inquiry process involves students communicating, sharing and presenting their new knowledge and understandings with others. The mode of presentation depends upon the inquiry. This stage may not form the major assessment piece for the term – depending upon the ways of working that the curriculum is focusing on, other parts of the inquiry may form part of the assessment.

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E= Evaluate
The evaluation stage is a vital and often overlooked part of the process. It is where students participate in self and/or peer evaluations and where what has been learnt is discussed. Students need to honestly evaluate their actions and take time to consider the strategies chosen and how effective they were.

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R=Reflect
The inquiry process is a cycle where each inquiry builds upon the skills developed in the previous one. Therefore at the end of each inquiry, students and teachers should take time to reflect upon the understandings and skills gained, and plan for future inquiries. Students may reflect upon processes and procedures that they would change if they were asked to complete a similar task in the future, and teachers could reflect upon the success of the inquiry and changes that might the process an even more effective learning strategy in the future.

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