Formulating an inquiry question

3 JUNE 2019

As you move from provisional to (full) registration, you will be required to meet the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) at the proficient teacher level through an inquiry approach undertaken in the educational setting where you teach. 

You will focus your inquiry by developing an inquiry question. A good inquiry question is open ended and encourages you to think, not to recall or summarise. It should make you think about something in a way you may never have considered before and should come from genuine curiosity.

Ensure your question is manageable within the available timeframe of the program of learning and your remaining period of provisional registration. 

You may need to refine the inquiry question and reduce the parameters. Be aware that if the question is too complex or has multiple layers, you may lose focus. On the other hand, if the question is too narrow in its focus, you will struggle to find sufficient evidence to address the standards. 

Use the SMART principle to guide you. A SMART question is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. If you can answer yes to the questions below, you’ve got a good inquiry question.


Make it easier on yourself by choosing a question about something you are interested in. Consider what the current focus is in your workplace (e.g. literacy, student-led learning, metacognition strategies). If you choose a theme that is contemporary and relevant, there is a greater chance you will be well supported by your leadership and colleagues, and you will be able to collect evidence easily and incidentally as you teach. 

The inquiry should be based on the needs of your learners, so before jumping into the formulation of a question, spend some time getting to know them. 

There will be a mix of needs. Look at the cohort and identify a smaller group that you would like to address, the following questions may provide a useful guide:

  • As a teacher, what do you need to know and do differently to improve the learning outcomes of your learners? 
  • What assessment or observation of behaviours can you undertake to identify this? 
  • What learning needs do you need to develop further? 
  • Based on the needs of your learners, what do you need to know and do differently in your teaching practice to progress their learning?

Discuss the inquiry question with your mentor. As an experienced teacher, their advice will be invaluable.

The following are examples of inquiry questions that provisionally registered teachers (PRTs) have used to gain full registration.

  • What feedback strategies can I use to improve learner outcomes in a year 12 English class to effectively prepare them for their examinations?
  • How can I effectively provide feedback to ensure learners are focusing on written feedback rather than numerical scores?
  • By what methods can I manage the emotional wellbeing of learners during play to ensure learning occurs?
  • What resources and their application, would enable me to scaffold learners' higher order thinking and problem solving?
  • Through which aspects of learning and play can I extend problem solving?
  • Will using technology encourage learners to take control of their own learning?
  • How would encouraging learners to self-assess and reflect on their learning enable them to take control of their own learning?
  • Will the use of high order questioning deepen levels of learner understanding?
  • Does group work and discussion help learners develop a deeper understanding and overcome misconceptions?
  • Can building an understanding of task words support students to structure responses?

VIT is committed to enabling quality teaching and the best educational outcomes for learners. A range of resources are available for PRTs moving to (full) registration, including PRT seminars, videos, podcasts and the Supporting Provisionally Registered Teachers Guide.

Casual relief teachers (CRTs) can also access resources specific to their needs, including how the inquiry approach can be adapted to their particular teaching context.