Creating a research culture

Indexby Stephen Deraldo16 Aug 2020

The research is far-reaching. You can create student ownership in the classroom. It can validate the passions and interests of our students. However, creating a culture of research requires constant work. Teachers have to establish it from day one in the classroom, and work to keep it vital throughout the year. Here are some important things you should know about creating that culture, and some ideas you can consider.

Culture vs. Climate

We have to be honest at the forefront. According to, a research culture is not going to happen overnight, but the right climate for it is much easier to establish. When we make a change or set an expectation of how a classroom will function, we begin to affect the climate. It takes time for something to become a part of the culture. All the work that teachers put into creating a research classroom needs to be reviewed again and again. Teachers must commit to this change and continue to strengthen the practices and strategies that create a culture of inquiry. In addition, while the climate may ultimately reflect an established culture, in its early stages, the climate is simply a possible indicator of the culture we hope to create. Therefore, students will need evidence and ongoing action to demonstrate that a culture of inquiry does indeed exist.


If students do not feel welcome in their classroom, they will not ask questions or participate in learning. Teachers need to make sure that students feel valued in their classroom. Activities can be created for students to share their passions and interests. Students should be welcomed at the door each time they enter the classroom. This is an ideal position to co-create policies and procedures to help students feel safe and supported. There are many strategies for making students feel welcome.

Scaffolding and Questioning Value

Many students need support in asking questions and creating different types of questions for different situations. Teachers should use a variety of strategies, such as structured questioning protocols, to support students in asking effective questions. In addition, they must find ways to assess all the issues that come into the classroom. If a student brings in a great question, try to use it as the basis for a class discussion or the creation of a research team to investigate. Another strategy could be the creation of a "parking lot" or a permanent list of questions that could be investigated at a later time.

Essential questions

A great tool for building a research culture is essential questions that drive learning. Wiggins and McTighe articulate this effect in their books by asking the essential questions: Opening doors to student understanding. My favorite phrase here is "doors that open. Too often, the questions we design may actually close the doors for students to create questions that will open the doors for them to learn. These types of questions are provocative, open-ended, and aligned with the content, but also leave room for exploration. Ideally, there should be no single correct answer. In addition, the answer students give will be required to justify their thinking. They cannot find the best answer immediately, as they continue to review the question throughout the unit or even the year. Instead of focusing on the answer, they must focus on the research process that begins when the question is asked. These questions can be tools created by teachers as well as co-constructed with students.