Unit Re-Design



Image by Author, 2016


This post provides an overview of the suggested changes to be made to the Simple Machines unit in the previous post. The new plan has been redesigned reflecting the changes suggested to ensure that the unit in question is more inquiry driven.

Component How it is completed.
Name of the Unit




Grade level

Curriculum / Standards


Transdisciplinary Theme – How the World Works – Simple Machines

How the world works Simple_Machines Unit Planner

Simple Machines Unit Lesson Sequence


Primary Years Programme / American Aero Science / Social Studies

5 weeks

Type of Inquiry Guided Inquiry
Inquiry Model Used Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design

Information Literacy GeSTE Windows – mainly in the Situated and Expressive windows with elements of the Transformative to be implemented.
Assessment Many opportunities to show thinking and understanding throughout the process of inquiry. Constructing a machine of some sort at the end…..their own choice of machine and through reflection explain what their machine does.


The goal of this unit – “How the World Works – Simple Machines” is to allow the students to be creative and to construct a ‘working’ machine. Along the way they will be exposed to machine elements; complex machines and how they work; and be encouraged to investigate, explore and ask questions that lead to their own designs and creations.

Through investigation and analysis of the aforementioned unit the overall assumptions acquired were that the unit could benefit with a little more Student involvement in the investigation process and the development of driving questions. There is evidence that the unit strives to be inquiry driven as there were many elements noted, that were of value in the delivery of the unit previously. These included:

  • the use of Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle,
  • Bloom’s revised Taxonomy showed that all steps were attained in this unit even reaching the creating stage.
  • minimal elements of teacher and student direction in the inquiry
  • Big idea essential questions are aimed to be implemented along with a range of the other questioning frameworks, such as KWL (Ogle, 1986) and visible thinking tools like wondering wall activities.
  • GeSTE windows analysis showed that the critical literacies understandings were mainly in the Situated and Expressive windows.

The main aim of this post is to implement the suggestions made previously, into the unit by re-designing it, to incorporate the recommendations. My recommendations were:

  • to have more student led explorations
  • more student led questions
  • teachers framing better questioning techniques with the students
  • a variation on the summative assessment
  • the unit outline to show the inquiry stages using Gourley’s (2008) cycle (as these are represented in classrooms)
  • the outline to show Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012)
  • more hands-on learning opportunities rather than teacher demonstration
  • a range of challenges
  • implementing the KWHLAQ (Barell, 2008)
  • more reflection times
  • try to incorporate the Transformative Window of Lupton’s (2016) GeSTE Windows

Inquiry Approach

It is important to highlight that the idea of this unit being described like Dunkhase’s (2000) “coupled inquiry” was very much appreciated as an appropriate approach for this unit of work considering the age group of the children involved. The suggestion was made that the areas of this approach that needed improvement were the “Open Inquiry” and “Inquiry Resolution” parts of the cycle (see the full cycle image in the previous post). The updated unit weekly plan has aimed to implement these ideas through the children ‘playing’ and ‘testing’ their questions as “asking questions is at the heart of inquiry-based learning.” (Youth Learn, 2016) There is also encouragement to “get them thinking, and help them make connections with their world outside of school” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2016)….to help them come up with their own theories and assumptions. Time provided to share these findings with each other is also now included. There is a move to the final assessment being completely student decided in terms of what they want their machine to achieve. If a student requires a problem to be provided, the teacher will cater for this, otherwise it will be totally up to the students, to allow them to be independent in terms of their design.

This unit is designed around the idea of Kath Murdoch’s (2010) Phases of Inquiry but Gourley’s (2008) Inquiry Circle is displayed in the classrooms as a guide to leading the cycle. The Central Idea: “Simple Machines play a role in our everyday lives.” is unable to be changed and for the sake of this process the Teacher Guided Questions will also remain the same: What are force and work?; How do Simple Machines work?; How do Simple Machines make work easier?. The intended plan is that the students will be guided more in the construction of their own questions around these essential questions, and  be given time to investigate these. More directed questioning frameworks are encouraged to be used by the teachers (guided) to lead students into becoming better at asking their own questions rather than relying on the teacher to tell them what they should be questioning.

The Re-Designed plan in the link below has these added elements to the document:

  • Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle
  • Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012)
  • Old Plan
  • New Concepts to be implemented – incorporating the ideas of questioning, KWHLAQ; more hands-on opportunities.
  • Revised Blooms Taxonomy implemented after the new concepts added, providing details of what part of the Taxonomy step.

All of the above were noted in some form in the prior post as having suggestions of improvement to this learning inquiry. The following link to the new re-designed plan will show the changes/modifications made in response to the recommendations above.


Development of Inquiry Skills

When referring to the above re-designed unit plan it should be noted that there were intended ideas put in place to further the development of the Inquiry skills required. Being a unit in a school that follows the International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme Curriculum, it was intentional in the redesign to ensure that elements of this thinking process were included in the Unit of Inquiry.  Right in the beginning of the unit there is now intended notions of “more hands-on learning opportunities, to challenge them to find out more” (International Baccalaureate Organisation,2009) and this is more evident also throughout the unit. (see the images below)


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016

Another “inquiry” ideal that was intended was the use of mini cycles happening within the main Inquiry Cycle (Gourley, 2008). By using the strategies of Barell’s (2008) KWHLAQ process questioning technique, the aim is to encourage the children to keep on questioning….come up with new and improved directions in their thinking. By practising “questioning and listening skills” we are guiding the children in “the art of asking good questions” (Youth Learn, 2016). It is intended the teacher will be very much a part of this process, modelling their own questions and providing the time for this reflection on these questions to happen within the unit.


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016

The re-design also allowed for a more directed approach in the planning of more Evaluative Science Questions, to accompany the STEM activities that the students will be exploring. This is ensuring another range of questions are incorporated, taking into account the Science Standards that are required to be covered within this unit.


Author Re-Designed Unit, 2016


In the re-design I attempted to place more accountability on the types of questioning included in the unit. As Lupton (2016) suggests, we need to “facilitate students’ skills and agency in asking their own inquiry questions”. Therefore in my re-design I have endeavoured to allow students to be guided through the questioning process to learn and understand “good” questions and then they should be provided with the time to implement their learning. The table below shows how these new elements have been incorporated into the questioning process in the Unit Re-Design.

Questioning Frameworks How they are Implemented into the Re-Designed Unit
Generative The implementation of using Barell’s (2008) KWHLAQ questioning framework. This is to be started at the beginning of the unit and then has been obviously put into the planning to be re-visited and the cycle added to throughout the inquiry, thus allowing for using “the model to ask the questions at a number of different stages of the inquiry process” (Lupton, 2016).

Guiding the students through reflective questioning when they are creating and have created their machines. e.g. How did you feel about your design? Is there something you would change? What could I improve?


Essential Key Inquiry Questions – Teacher “Big Idea” question that will be referred to throughout the unit – How do Simple Machines work?; How do simple machines make work easier?; What are force and work?  Along with the Key Concept questions: Function – How does it work? Causation – Why is it like it is?

Implementation of Jackson’s (2013) “Research Wonders”. The children will be encouraged to identify these when they are completing their Wondering Wall in the first week of the inquiry.

Process More emphasis in the planning document on Gourley’s Inquiry Cycle and the implementation of Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design (2012). It is suggested that the teachers may try this process to help guide the inquiry…seems more relevant to the subject matter being implemented.


Evaluative Evidence now in the planning document of the Scientifc questions that could be implemented to correlate with the Science Standards.

Using Lupton’s  (2016) GeSTE Windows to critically evaluate Information Literacy also allowed for some changes and implementation to the current unit. It was noted in the analysis that the Generic and Situated Windows were well represented in the original unit plan. There was an element of the Expressive Window with no clear representation in the Transformative Window. The image below shows the areas from the plan that the GeSTE Windows are represented. These are highlighted after analysing Lupton’s GeSTE Windows for information literacy.



Author’s use of the GeSTE Windows in relation to the implementation of the Unit Redesign. (2016)


Finally, after having taught this Unit of Work previously I am excited about the new directions that the actual process of ‘questioning’ might take the unit. It has always been intended to be a unit where the students drive the learning, and slowly each year changes implemented have allowed this notion to become a reality. As I will not be a part of the teaching process for this unit this year, I am hoping the idea of ‘guiding’ stronger questioning might take off with this year’s group of teachers (who are willing to take on my recommendations). I will be available as the librarian, so I will be able to take on the suggested library lessons to model how to search for relevant text and database information to allow more information building. It is also intended that the students will be involved in critically analysing information to ensure that it is relevant to their inquiries. Another area of excitement for this unit is the notion of the students having more ‘freedom’ as to the machine they design. Many students last year, actually chose this tangent and as their teacher I just went with what they were wanting to achieve, asking questions along the way. I am looking forward to seeing what the students this year question and create.


Barell, J. (2008) From Lupton, M. (2012). What is Inquiry Learning.  https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/what-is-inquiry-learning/

Dunkhase, J. (2000) in Martin-Hansen, L. (2002), Defining Inquiry. The Science Teacher; Feb 2002; 69, 2, p.34-37

Gourley, B. (2008). Inquiry Circle. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning Modules.com

International Baccalaureate Organisation. (2009) Making the PYP happen: A Curriculum framework for International Primary Education. Revised edition. Anthony Rowe Ltd, United Kingdom.

Jackson,S. (2013)  Helping Students Develop the Ability to Ask Good Questions.Scholastic Education. Canada

Kuhlthau, C. Maniotes, L,K. Caspari, A,K. (2012) Guided Inquiry Design. Rutgers School of Communication and Information.(2016)

Lupton, M. (2016) Inquiry learning: A pedagogical and curriculum framework for information literacy. In Sales, Dora & Pinto, Maria (Eds.) Pathways into Information Literacy and Communities of Practice: Teaching Approaches and Case Studies.Chandos Publishing. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/95005/

Lupton, M. (2016) https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/critical-evaluation-of-information-geste-windows-overview/

Lupton, M. (2016) https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/critical-evaluation-of-information-transformative-window/

Lupton, M. (2016) https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/critical-evaluation-of-information-generic-window/

Murdoch, K. (2010). Phases of Inquiry  https://aninquiryjourney.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/d164c-phasesofinquiry.pdf

Ogle, D. (1986) KWL. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2012) What is Inquiry Learning.  https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/what-is-inquiry-learning/

Pohl, M. (2000).  Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Retrieved from Lupton, M. (2016)  Inquiry Learning Modules.com

Youth Learn © 2016 Education Development Center, Inc.









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