My article for ACCESS* (Volume 36, Issue 2, June 2022) – see Heroic Inquiry at Blanchelande College – included the first iteration of the FOSIL Inquiry Cycle visualized in terms of our iconographic vocabulary of the Hero’s Journey. I include the second iteration below, which also features simplified descriptions of the stages in the Cycle specifically for use in primary school (although as a poster, this simplified version appears in all teaching and learning spaces in our primary and secondary phases):
I will discuss this iconographic vocabulary in due course, but first share my reflections on the inquiry process in terms of the Hero’s Journey:
Every inquiry, whether formal or informal, is a heroic journey, and viewing the inquiry process in terms of the hero’s journey provides valuable insight into both.
Broadly, inquiry is a movement – intellectual, certainly, but also, and equally important, physical, emotional and social – from the comfort of the known into the discomfort of the unknown, there to wrestle understanding from knowledge, and knowledge from information. There lurks real danger here, for a little wrong can go a surprisingly long way, and so discerning those who would help from those who would hinder, or even harm, is vital. From this now-enlightened place to return, enlivened and alive to possibilities heretofore unimagined. And so to set off again.
This heroic journey of inquiry is the story of those who have stretched the limits of human knowledge and understanding in one or more of the fields of study in which they laboured, and those who labour there still. It is this unfolding story that we are inviting our students to identify with and, in learning to stretch the limits of their own knowledge and understanding, add their voice to and so find their place in.
The waypoints on this heroic journey of inquiry are:
An attitude of wonder and puzzlement directed toward something – an issue, problem, or question – that gives rise to a process of inquiry and discovery.
Recognition that help from those who have journeyed in this direction before, and those who journey this way now, is desirable, if not vital to our success.
A period of investigation – primary and/ or secondary, and requiring discernment of and within sources, inevitably characterized at the outset by frustration, confusion and doubt – that charts a course between the growing “tsunami of available fact, context and perspective” (David Foster Wallace) and, increasingly, the maelstrom of mis-information, dis-information and mal-information.
Aha! Insight emerges from the iterative process of sense-making and meaning-finding.
Sharing insights into the issue, problem, or question, in a way that is powerfully suited to the target audience.
Reflecting on the journey of heroic inquiry in order to internalize important lessons for future journeys.
More broadly, heroic inquiry is a distinguishing feature of a contemporary liberal education, in which knowledge of the world through study in the academic disciplines is focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring. This orientation towards heroic inquiry finds its fullest expression in Signature Work.
I will also share more about our notion of the Interrobang!? in relation to inquiry in general and Signature Work in particular, but share our first visual iteration below: