Maybe my desire to be more positive is also helping me see things in a more positive light. I’m not sure. Both at our PA Day on Friday and after school today, two different teachers approached me to speak about inquiry.
- They wanted to know about assessment and evaluation.
- They wanted to know how students got the background knowledge that they needed for a particular subject area.
- They wanted to learn how students learned the other content that did not fit in with their inquiry questions.
- They wanted to know how I scaffolded for students that need additional support.
- They wanted to know if inquiry really helps students learn.
Yes, I heard from both of these teachers that they are still uncertain about not being the ones to directly teach the content first. I get it. This is a change in practice, and if teachers are used to lecturing and having students complete the same follow-up activity, this change is a big one. But change starts with questioning. Change starts with developing an understanding. And change starts with thinking about something differently that maybe you’ve never thought about before. So I realize that these teachers are still skeptical about the inquiry model, but by asking questions, they’re taking the first step to change. How do we move from asking questions to giving inquiry a try? I’m positive this can happen. Now I’m determined to move with others beyond the talking!
There is so much to learn and do with the inquiry approach to teaching and learning. However, I think you have to jump in and just do it!
We’ve had film festivals (Learn 360) and provided lots of books, suggested websites…to help build background knowledge. Integrating topics is so easy with the inquiry approach…we ‘cover’ content and more… The students are always working in small groups and it so easy to track every student and scaffold their learning. Our students with special needs are involved with small groups, everyone works together to make sure they have a job.
We noticed that our students are independent thinkers, confident and engaged AND they love school! What else can you ask for?
Thanks for your comment, Louise! I absolutely agree with you, and this is much of what I discussed during these past couple of conversations. I think that once people try it, they see the benefits in using inquiry. The hard part is just initially giving it a-go!
Like anything else, I think the key is to start with some small, manageable steps… perhaps in an area where the teacher feels they have some expertise. I think you are exactly right that the focus needs to be on asking questions and having a general framework as to the possible ways that students will be encouraged to show their learning. It would be really helpful to brainstorm these steps and activities with a colleague and to compare notes and refine the process through learning together. The team approach makes things a little less intimidating.
Thanks for the comment, Paul! I absolutely agree with you about this team approach. Currently, I find myself teaming with people in different grades that are interested in finding out more about inquiry as well. Sometimes it’s nice to connect with others that are at the same spot as you, but I wonder too how to connect more this those that are just starting out or unsure about how to begin. There’s a continuum of learning here (I know this, as I’ve gone through it myself), and I wonder how we can bridge the gap between the different spots on the continuum. Ideas?
We teach more when we take on a mentoring approach instead of a ton of teacher talk. Students will learn more when they are interested in what is going on. Imagine how much more an entire class would learn from each other if everyone got to share what they learned about something that excited them!!
I think a great thing about our board is that it finds inquiry valuable enough to have teachers assigned to helping classroom teachers make it happen in schools. When you are having these conversations, remind your peers to contact the Instructional Coaches. This is a great way to try inquiry–with another teacher in the room learning along side you. Sounds like modelling inquiry to me
This is a great idea, Tammy, and a wonderful reminder! I think about the instructional coaches all the time, but always forget to mention this option. I will tomorrow. Thank you!
P.S. I agree with you 100% about inquiry too! It’s great to see students excited about learning!