Depth of Inquiry

What is Depth of Inquiry?

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

This last line of Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses” calls to mind what it means to have a depth of inquiry as a learner. Sparked by that initial sense of wonder, a student who inquires deeply does not stop at a first answer, does not rest at the surface of things, but exerts a visible effort to follow through and persist in the search for truth where it leads.

In narrative student evaluations at Veritas, alongside the sense of wonder, teachers look for this depth of inquiry. Wonder and inquiry are closely related–in fact, they reinforce each other.

Depth of inquiry prompts students to go deep, to delve into the foundations of things. This is not only a matter of their approach to inquiry and reflection; it also shows their emerging intellectual character. Are they becoming superficial thinkers or are they on the route to becoming profound? Depth of inquiry requires the right intellectual habits, and teachers want their students to develop these habits throughout the school year. Thus, the teacher looks at day-to-day classroom activities to see progress in depth of inquiry.

Ways to Show Depth of Inquiry

Depth of inquiry takes the first inspirations of wonder to seek truth, and it keeps that impulse going with precise and persistent effort. Below are some habits that reflect depth of inquiry:

  • Ask questions that go beneath the surface
  • Be willing to follow up on those questions
  • Inquire into the material, the topics, and the issues behind them
  • Be persistent and precise in pursuing questions
  • Apply energy in class to discovery

Teachers can best explain what depth of inquiry looks like in each class, and they are always happy to explain. Depth of inquiry requires not just attitude, but action: annotating all the way through a novel, giving more than a basic answer on a worksheet, listening and reentering a conversation more than once, following a thought to its conclusion. Talk with your teacher to find ways you can grow in this area.