• Expand the sections below to read about unit concepts, learner-generated questions,  research component, Making to show learning, and evaluation. Additional resources, scaffolds, and templates can be found on the Materials and Resources page.

Unit Concept

  • Elementary student working with a map poster and a laptop. A strong unit concept - a big idea or abstract principle that is timeless and universal - is critical for a successful inquiry and Making experience. Informed by the established academic content standards and the National School Library Standards for School Libraries, School Librarians, and Learners, this concept allows learners to connect the content and personal interests. Unlike a unit topic - a category or subject area - a concept broadens the range of learner questioning and helps learners understand the larger significance of the standards. Concepts are usually addressed in one word or a short phrase.

  • Examples

  • Selecting the Standards

  • Formulating the Concept

  • Concept Development

Learner-Generated Questions

  • Middle school teacher and three students discussing an inquiry question. An important aspect of GID + Making is student-generated questions. When developing a unit the learning team intentionally designs context-building experiences to stimulate interest and engage students with the content. This gives students the foundation needed to develop high-level inquiry questions. These questions are open-ended and unique to each student. Student-generated questions are critical to the process because they allow students to connect content to their own interest and attain ownership of their learning.

    When the learning team empowers students to take control of their learning by generating their own questions, knowledge gaps may form. Therefore, it is important that learners share with each other to develop a common understanding of the concept.

  • Examples

  • Questioning Framework

  • Practice Questioning

  • Inquiry Circles

  • Conferencing

Research Component

  • Student concept map for inquiry unit. After learners have developed their inquiry questions, they conduct research to answer them. The learning team collaborates to teach research strategies, monitor progress, and guide students through the research process. The level of guidance will vary with different grade levels and content areas. Research is ongoing - students will discover knowledge gaps as they move through the inquiry process. Learner research bridges the gap between the inquiry question and the finished Maker product.

    In inquiry and Making units, this component may also include researching the skills and processes necessary for Making.

  • Examples

  • Mini Lessons

  • Research Logs

  • Conferencing

  • Inquiry Circles

Making to Demonstrate Learning

  • Student working with a 3D pen. In this phase of the design, learners synthesize their research and create a product to demonstrate learning that will be shared with the learning community. These products may be a concrete representation of learning or more abstract, requiring an accompanying explanation. It is important that the learning team has a broad concept of Making, taking care not to limit learners’ understanding of Making by imposing implicit restrictions. The learning team should encourage learners to explore a variety of tools and mediums for Making, which may extend beyond the comfort and expertise of the team.

    Making to show learning allows students to develop new skills, demonstrate strengths outside of the content area, and creatively express what they’ve learned through the inquiry process.

  • Examples

  • Exploring & Tinkering

  • Answering the Inquiry Question

  • Maker Plan

  • Conferencing

  • Prototyping


  • During Making, it is important to evaluate the inquiry and design process, rather than the finished product. Innovative ideas are subject to failure, modification, and iteration. Educators and learners must understand that a great idea may not necessarily lead to a completely finished working model. The learning team collaborates to evaluate learning throughout the inquiry process.

    Self-evaluation is also a critical part of the inquiry and Making process.  Learners reflect throughout the process and evaluate their own learning at the conclusion of a unit. Learners consider the products of their peers, knowledge gained, and their command of the inquiry process during self-evaluation. 

    The learning team should also take time to reflect on the unit as a whole, celebrating successes and noting improvements for future iterations of the unit. Educators should take care to fill content gaps that may be revealed after learners share their new knowledge. 

  • Examples

  • Feedback Tools

  • Self-evaluation

  • Assessment

  • Educator Reflection