Reflecting on the journey

My initial questions didn’t change too much.  There were a few tweaks here and there to help find better search results, such as changing “Year 3” to “primary”.  What really changed was my understanding of what these questions meant.

I began this search with a very clear idea of what I thought I would find.   I embarked on this journey with the notion that inquiry was best! Why weren’t we all doing it?  In my mind, I was going to get a few videos of inquiry maths in action in Australian classrooms, some step by step resources telling me how to plan units, map curriculum and design investigations.  There would be assessment rubrics to download and checklists for differentiation.   It was going to be a “plug in” process where I typed in the co-ordinates and off I went.

As I searched, however, I began to realise that these resources that I’d dreamt up didn’t actually exist, and eventually I realised that that was for a good reason.  Inquiry isn’t a cookie-cutter process; it is a genuine, authentic, challenging search for answers that will always be individual to each person, and it would be exactly the same for the students in my Mathematics class.

It turns out I didn’t actually know all that much about teaching inquiry either.  It wasn’t an easy process; teaching and planning for Inquiry is difficult.  It takes time and pre-planning.  It takes knowing your students and knowing your curriculum inside out.   But its worth it.

How can the Australian Curriculum for Year 3 Mathematics be taught through Inquiry Learning?  turned from perusing for lesson plans into scanning for inquiry models, prompts, investigation topics, inquiry questions and the effect of inquiry on Mathematical thinking.  It became focussed on Mathematical inquiry methods rather than Australian Curriculum models.

As I researched my second question, (How can a mathematics teacher differentiate for students in need of extension or support in an inquiry learning experience?) I began to understand that inquiry learning done properly was extension and support by its very nature.  And after investigating assessment methods I understood that assessment wasn’t an investigation with a criteria sheet listing content descriptors, as I had pictured, but a collaborative approach with multiple stages, and that this assessment was as much, if not more for the students, as it was for report cards.

The Information Search Process

A reflection of my search process reveals links to Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process.

Kuhlthau’s ISP My experiences of searching
Initiation

 

When we were first given this task I wasn’t sure where to start. I had several ideas – inquiry in HASS, early years inquiry, the difference between guided , structured and open. It wasn’t until I started writing my first blog post that I really honed in on the topic I knew next to nothing about.
Selection When I finally selected Maths as my topic, I was pretty excited. I was looking forward to filling in this gap in my knowledge and thought it would be fairly simple to find.
Exploration

 

I think I visited the exploration stage with each question. In the first question it was frustrating that Google wasn’t turning up the search results I wanted. I wondered if there was actually anything out there at all, and I realised that my pre-concieved notions about what I would find were wrong. I felt like I had to go back to stage one. When I used ProQuest I was overwhelmed by the amount and complexity of the information out there. I began to feel like I would never find anything.

There were times where I felt like I was collecting so much information but had no idea how any of it linked.

Formulation After a time searching each question though, I began to build up a general understanding of my topic.   I was able to identify which sources were worthwhile sources, and in many cases I went backwards to previous search strings and results, and found that my understanding had increased and that I could now use these resources to help further build my knowledge.
Collection

 

With increased understanding, I was able to select the most relevant resources to assist my inquiry searches.   Some of these I collected for the curation, others I listed in my blog posts.
Presentation

 

Finally, I am ready to present my findings in the curation. I refined my final question to incorporate some assessment and differentiation resources, as my search had led me to realise they were all linked.     Furthermore, I know have the understanding and knowledge to attempt to use the resources I have found to plan some maths units.

 

I have gained so much more knowledge and skills through learning about my interests through this method.  The reason I chose this topic in the first place was because I wanted to make Maths meaningful, enjoyable and I wanted my students to develop deeper understandings and to feel like they were in control of their learning.  That’s exactly how I feel after my inquiry experience, and I hope that my students will too.

 

Banner source: Pixabay 2011

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