It’s sometimes hard to know how your understandings have changed. As I reflect back on the semester, I find I can’t remember what I used to think about inquiry learning, just what I know now! As I read in one of my readings, research is an iterative process, and therefore I suppose change is too, ever looping back around in a spiral. Luckily, I have this blog to look back on. Here is an excerpt from one of my first posts.
My current understanding of inquiry learning is that it is student-driven, question-based style of learning, where either the students or the teacher poses questions and students must investigate to find an answer or solution. I understand that there can be different levels of teacher support in the inquiry process and that these result in different types of inquiry.
As I look at this entry now I can see that while I had some sort of idea, I really no detail and clue as to how this would work. As I went through my research for this entire unit I have felt myself going through the stages of Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process; optimism in the beginning (“inquiry is about questions!”) to utter confusion and head-on-desk despair (“there is too much to know!”), slowly moving through mini breakthroughs (“maybe I’ll just try this”) to moments of clarity (“I GET IT!”) and then back around again. Along the way, I have learned some really important lessons.
The importance of a team approach!
Planning for inquiry is challenging. It is not something you can “whip up” overnight, and needs a collaborative response from a group of teachers. Talking together and sharing knowledge helps to give life and depth to the unit. Its also a time consuming approach, and the reality of schools and teachers these days is that they just dont have that much time to consume!
It will be challenging (really challenging) for your students
Inquiry is not a “lowest common denominator” approach. It is hard, designed to extend all students and implement the higher order thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As as an educator, you need to be comfortable with letting your students experience set backs and support them in overcoming challenges. I have seen first hand in my class how my students are getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, once I just supported them to do so. Its building growth mindsets, persistence and resilience and setting them up for future success.
The importance of continuing to learn
We haven’t really every learnt everything, even about the things we consider ourselves to be experts on. As I finish off this last blog post, I know that there is still things about inquiry learning for me to explore. I have more questions than when I began, but this time I feel good about it. I know to expect my next journey to be difficult and challenging, but I know that the knowledge I will glean from participating in that process will be amazing. Imagine if every student could think like this!
Some questions I’m thinking about now:
How can I plan an extended inquiry unit for Mathematics?
What are some ways that students with learning disabilities can be supported in more open inquiry units, particular as the grades go higher and content becomes more difficult?
How can I integrate inquiry throughout all aspects of the curriculum?
Who can I get to help me at my school?
Are models of inquiry appropriate for different subjects or different age groups, or is it just personal preference? How do all these models interact with the Australian Curriculum?
I know these won’t be my final questions by any stretch, but Inquiry Learning has taught me that that is ok… as long as I keep looking and asking questions.
Happy Inquiring :).
Image from Pixabay, 2009.