To begin my expert searching, I am going to start with good old Google. Google and I go way back. Ever since my teacher librarian in primary school introduced me to basic Boolean searching, Google has been my go to source for an answer to any question. It is a bit like being a detective; if you can ask it, someone has already answered it and put it on the web. All you need to do is work out what words they might have used.
Whether those answers are correct or not is of course another issue. The information Google can uncover is only as accurate as the people behind it. Googling anything comes with a need for a certain amount of critical literacy skills; an ability to determine whether or not a website is legitimate or contains trustworthy information.
There are two thoughts I am considering about searching as I open Google.
- How will I tell whether or not the information I find is legitimate?
- Will I be able to use Google to find focussed enough results?
In order to address my first thought, I decided that some background knowledge was needed. Finding the answers to my questions without some context would be like wandering through all of space looking for a particular planet with only the knowledge that it was medium-sized and blue. How would I know where to start and when I had found it? What I would really need would be more detailed descriptions or some sort of indications of where to start looking. Just like an inter-galactical search, I needed to know a little bit about inquiry learning in the Australian Curriculum first before I could embark on my questions.
I will search for a definition of inquiry learning in the context of the Australian Curriculum, and then see if there is anything specific for Australian Curriculum Mathematics. The type of documents or sites I am looking out for are published papers or pages associated with ACARA or other teaching governing bodies, or pages with links to well-known inquiry learning advocates.
To look for inquiry learning, I used double quotation marks to signal to Google that I wanted exact phrases, and I used the OR operator for similar search terms.
|(“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry-based learning”) (“australian curriculum”OR acara)||204,000||Scrolling through the first page I can immediately see that there are a number of results hosted by ACARA, QCAA and university websites. Some of these are repeats of the same information. Science, History and Geography are all well-represented in the search results, but there is very little reference to maths.
Possible search terms for later use: open, guided and structured inquiry
As expected, these results were quite broad. I found what I was looking for though. I found some great slides from a presentation by Mandy Lupton and a case study of inquiry learning hosted on the Australian curriculum website. Interestingly, Mandy mentions that inquiry skills are not explicitly mentioned in the Mathematics curriculum as they are in other subject areas. This could be why I found so many references to other subjects and none to Mathematics. I may have some trouble finding links as readily as in other subject areas.
At this point I decided to add “australian curriculum mathematics” to my search string, just to see if there was anything specific to Mathematics.
|(“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry-based learning”) “australian curriculum mathematics”||3010||Immediately I could see that the addition of the “mathematics” word narrowed down results considerably. On this search I found lots of school policies, book stores advertising “inquiry based” text books, curriculum links that weren’t relevant.
There was still nothing specific about what inquiry mathematics actually looked like in Year Three, but I found three resources that were of interest and helped to build my background knowledge; an article in Teacher Magazine about the reSolve project (an intiative from the Academy of Science and Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, or AAMT), a fantastic uploaded book chapter called “Empowering Students through Inquiry” from “Empowering Mathematics Learners” from AAMT, and an example of a Prep inquiry maths experience from the Department of Education and Training. Following the links to the reSolve project, mentioned specifically in two of these results, proved it was an excellent resource, with legitimate ties to the Australian Curriculum and funded by the Australian Government. I found a myriad of resources for inquiry learning in Maths that were grade-specific and curriculum focussed, and a convincing body of research and documented trial process to back its contributions. Reading up on all these resources gave me some background knowledge, but also a tiny niggling feeling that I actually had no idea what I was looking for after all…
But never mind that! Now that I know what Solar System I’m heading for, I’m ready to start looking for my destination.
Banner source: Pixabay, 2012