The Inspired Teaching Approach

Every child, and teacher, should love coming to school.

The Inspired Teaching Approach makes that possible.


Since its founding in 1995, Center for Inspired Teaching has taught thousands of teachers and school leaders to build their practice in engagement-based education, using the 5 Rules of Inspired Teaching Improv and professional development centered on the power and importance of play. Through intensive, in-person fellowships and an array of interactive digital programs and resources, Inspired Teaching has helped to create classrooms where students solve complex problems, collaborate, and pursue continuous learning and growth — with excitement and enthusiasm.

Inspired Teachers are Instigators of Thought who center all instruction on the 4 I’s: Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity. They build their classrooms around Five Core Elements: Mutual Respect; Student As Expert; Purpose, Persistence, and Action; Joy; and Wide-Ranging Evidence of Student Learning. Click the model below to learn more.

The Inspired Teaching Model

The Inspired Teaching Model

Mutual Respect means adults in school embrace relationship-based discipline, restorative justice, and other philosophies that authentically build self-discipline and intrinsic motivation, and teach genuine responsibility. Students are not expected simply to comply with rules. The expectation is that school will help students thrive. Learn More

Student As Expert means adults trust that students have the ability, and the inclination, to solve academic and social problems, instead of assuming students need adults to solve problems for them. This means student voice and ideas are abundant in every lesson, in every interaction. Learn More

Purpose, Persistence, and Action means students are fully engaged, intellectually, emotionally, and physically, in what they are doing. They persevere in solving problems, making discoveries along the way. Teachers offer feedback and support and ask thought-provoking questions, but the students themselves are in the driver's seat. Learn More

Joy means students and teachers know they are valued and feel a sense of belonging in school. It means students and teachers embrace an asset-based stance, and take pride in their work. Joy can be sparked by a special event - a dance performance or soccer game. However, joy is also an important component of the everyday experience of teaching and learning. Learn More

Wide-Ranging Evidence of Learning means multiple forms of student learning data are collected, analyzed, displayed, valued, and used to inform instruction. Students write essays, create artwork and dances, give speeches, build models, design and administer surveys, write code, create apps, create videos and podcasts, and much more—in addition to taking tests and exams. Learn More

Intellect means learning, understanding, and applying content knowledge in reading and literature, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts, to address personal, communal, national, and global problems and experiences. Thinking critically and learning in a manner that is self-directed and fully engaged: intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Learn More

Inquiry is acting as a researcher: problem-solving, generating questions, collecting and analyzing information, and proposing solutions.Relying on curiosity and collaboration; internal motivation to learn, wonder and keen observation, paying close attention to detail and data, and devising possibilities for future investigations. Learn More

Imagination is exhibiting the skills of creative and independent thinkers: the courage to create, a joyful spirit, the ability to generate ideas and devise solutions, and the ability to learn through play. Facing challenges — in school and everywhere in life — with resourcefulness, ingenuity, and optimism. Learn More

Integrity is acting as a member of a democratic society. Demonstrating honesty: the ability to stand up for one’s beliefs; the confidence to make decisions according to one’s value system; the ability to listen to, respect, collaborate, and learn from others; and the capacity for empathy and compassion. Learn More

Improvisation is an essential framework for building uncertainty tolerance and teaching students to apply creative thinking to solving complex problems.

Research shows that teachers trained in the skills of improvisation are well-equipped to handle the rapidly changing nature of what’s happening in schools. Better yet, classrooms steeped in an improvisational mindset foster the kinds of engagement and feelings of belonging essential to school connectedness. The 5 Rules of Inspired Teaching Improv are a teacher’s guide for building a community full of play, creativity, and authentic learning. Click the model to learn more about each rule!

Download your copy of the 5 Rules of Inspired Teaching Improv here.

Inspired Teaching’s inquiry-based instruction is rooted in two complementary and mutually reinforcing processes of teaching and learning: the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle for students and the Observe-Plan-Instigate Cycle for teachers. Click the model below to learn more about each.

Inspired Teaching Learner & Teacher Cycles

Inspired Teaching Learner & Teacher Cycles
The Learner's Cycle The Teacher's Cycle

The Learner's Cycle

When they are engaged in the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle, students are immersed in learning. They take the lead in designing authentic learning experiences around their own interests and their school’s standards of learning. Each discovery leads to a new question which in turn leads to more wondering and more learning. In the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle, Learn is not a destination or an endpoint; it is a deeper understanding, leading to a deeper wondering and new possibilities that create new entry points to further exploration. The cycle continues because what students have learned generates more wonderings that require more experiments that foster more learning – and on and on.

The Teacher's Cycle

The Observe-Plan-Instigate Cycle is the work of an Inspired Teacher. While a student is expected to follow the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle, the teacher joins them on the learning journey while following their own cycle of Observe-Plan-Instigate. This cycle ultimately serves to ensure an inquiry-based atmosphere is at play in the classroom.

Inspired Teaching has shown me the kind of teacher I want to be and makes me believe I can get there.

— Inspired Teaching Institute Participant