Inquiry Series: How To Use A Decision Making Process For Inquiry

When we think of empowering students with tools and techniques to navigate life, few opportunities may be as important as providing authentic experiences to develop their ability to inquire. Sometimes inquiry may seem like a somewhat vague term. If you're new to inquiry in education or just wanting to brush up a little, feel free to check out our last blog where we explored What Is Inquiry?. We provided a simple working definition "Inquiry is attempting to resolve that which is unresolved, using a process." and a short background on how inquiry found it's way into education.

We all make decisions on a daily basis, but rarely do we use a precise decision making process, like this one. Imagine the world we’d live in if we all did! This process is most often used in the fields of politics, business, marketing and military strategy.

Let's dive deeper into this vital process of inquiry - decision making.

The 5 Steps of Decision Making:

There are five key steps, outlined in this Decision Making process. However, you can find multiple decision making processes, some with five key steps, and others with additional steps.

Step 1: Examine The Decision To Be Made

We begin the process of making a decision by thinking of the end in mind. What are we hoping to achieve? What goals are we hoping to meet? What results or outcomes are desired?

Step 2: List Options

Now we can first list all the options before us, which may require some, or even extensive, research.

Step 3: Investigate

Once we have the gamut of possible decisions, we can actively consider each of them. We can weigh the pros and cons. We can pro-actively think of likely consequences and of possible “unintended consequences” This is a bit like chess, where the board is dynamic, there are multiple variables in play and usually no decision has clear-cut results.

Step 4: Decide

Given the options, and our careful consideration of the merits of the options, step four is when we make a decision and put it into action.

Step 5: Evaluate

Finally, we can ask ourselves how the decision is working. How do we measure if it’s working? Well, we have to return to the desired goals, results and outcomes identified in Step 1. Are those being attained? How do we know? Did unintended consequences occur that need to be addressed? This evaluation process may lead to adjustments to the action that had been decided upon and even to new decisions that may need to be made.

Problem solving is an important facet for developing learners who are empowered with 21st century skills and we can think about unresolved decisions as a "problem" to be solved.

So how could I use the decision making process to guide inquiry in my classroom? Here are a few project ideas that could lend themselves to this method of inquiry:

1. Historical simulation - take a role in a pivotal historical event and use the decision making process to determine how you would have acted, given all the historical information. E.g. Should we drop the bomb?

2. Marketing Campaign Challenge - How can we get a user bump through marketing for our client? Imagine taking on a real-world local business partner for whom student design a marketing campaign to achieve a given outcome. Determining what elements to put into the marketing campaign are decisions to be made. And this method of inquiry would help the process.

3. Students High School and Beyond Plans - As students are thinking ahead to their futures, they can use this process to make all sorts of decisions around college, housing, staying local vs. moving away, and much more. The key is that we are teaching students HOW to think, not what to think.

Be sure to use our 'Decision Making Journal' to guide your students through each step of the process. Find it in the FREE RESOURCES section, under the Inquiry Resources section. We also offer Deeper Learning workshops that engage all areas of 21st century skills. As always our Resource Section is free to join and provides various tools, protocols and guides for all sorts of educational topics.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or great ideas you may have, we love to hear from anyone passionate about deeper learning!