This week, I had the privilege to volunteer at my old school as one of the trainers for professional development day. I was asked to focus one of the workshops on inquiry planning and concept-based instruction in science and social studies. But the more I prepared, the more I realized that when it comes to inquiry, it’s not so much WHAT we do, as much as HOW we APPROACH.
So instead of spending our hour discussing science/social studies-specific ideas, we started off with a personal inquiry inventory, adapted from a couple posts by Kath Murdoch.
Next, participants used their inventory responses to determine which area of inquiry they wanted to investigate more.
As participants researched, they were also on the hunt for a sentence-phrase-word that helped them determine the difference between the same science/social studies activity used in a traditional teacher-driven classroom vs. an inquiry, concept-driven classroom.
I loved hearing the conversations, and engaging with participants as their research prompted new wonderings.
As everyone shared their Sentence-Phrase-Words, it led to more fabulous, thought-provoking discussions, such as…
- …the fact that it’s a sacred trust to protect and cultivate the natural curiosity of our young charges — to not allow “the game of school” to drain that from them.
- …the fact that everyone is on a different trajectory when it comes to adopting an inquiry approach — it’s not so much about how much of your day is dedicated to an inquiry-based instruction, but rather how consistently.
But by far my favorite part of our workshop was finishing up with “I used to think…Now I know…” sticky notes.
In case you can’t quite read them all in the above photo, I’ll list out the content here, too:
- I used to think that students need to be taught. Now I know that they need to be guided.
- I used to think the teacher had to give all the instruction using books, videos, etc. to teach about other cultures and countries. Now I know we can connect with other places in the world and talk with REAL people about their culture and country through technology.
- I used to think that giving students agency can be scary. Now I know that with the right tools, it isn’t.
- I used to think that joining curriculum and student-driven inquiry was too difficult to join in the classroom. Now I know it’s possible here as it is anywhere & not as hard as we convince ourselves.
- I used to think that inquiry was complicated. Now I know we are making it complicated.
- I used to think that questions were used solely at the beginning of a unit to drive the inquiry. Now I know questions can be a result of the inquiry and lead to more exploration.
- I used to think inquiry was more work on the teacher. Now I know I need to lend it over to the kids — let them be kids.
- I used to think that you had to fit everything in your lessons. Now I know that student driven lessons are more effective and fun.
- I used to think that I always had to have an answer. Now I know that I don’t. Students can discover their answers through their own research.
I should add that thanks to the discussion during this workshop, as well as my continued online learning with teachers around the world, I need to add my own:
- I used to think that to be an inquiry teacher, we must have students directing the learning 100% of the time. Now I know that it’s more about working toward creating a culture of ownership and curiosity, which can be present even during explicit teacher instruction.
Here are the links to all the research I shared with participants. Thank you so much to the many educators who so freely share their thinking and learning. I learn so much every day because of you! Kath Murdoch, Edna Sackson, Taryn BondClegg, Richard Wells, Sonya Terborg, Aviva Dunsinger, Sam Sherratt, and more.
- Moving on from the KWL Chart, Student Questions & Inquiry: https://justwonderingblog.com/2013/06/08/moving-on-from-the-kwl-chart-student-questions-and-inquiry/
- Inquiry, To What End? https://ateacherswonderings.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/inquiry-to-what-end/
- Ways to build student contribution (p. 7): http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf
- Some guiding principles for teachers (p 5/6): http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf
- 10 Ways to Make Learning Matter: https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/10-ways-to-make-the-learning-matter/
Inquiry cycle for forward-moving planning:
- The How & Why of the Inquiry Cycle: https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/inquiry-cycle-why-what-and-how/
- From Sparking Curiosity to Sustained Inquiry (p. 8): http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf
- Inspiring Action: https://sonyaterborg.com/2017/03/06/inspiring-action/
- Supporting Students’ Agency Take 2 (See “Planning Their Day:)” https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/supporting-students-agency-take-two/
- Student-written reports: https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/student-written-reports/
Hunter/Gathering for science/social studies:
- Skype Classrooms (Virtual Field Trips, Experts, Mystery Skype):
- Geo-literacy: https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/moving-learning-forward/
- Action Research: https://sonyaterborg.com/2016/02/17/action-research/
- Giving students tools for learning: https://eduwells.com/2016/12/10/5-tools-for-student-driven-learning/
- Don’t say agency unless you really mean it: https://sonyaterborg.com/2017/10/09/dont-say-agency-unless-you-really-mean-it/
- Planning gradual increase of independence:
- http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/docs/support/multilevel/chap6.pdf (p 6.7)
- https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/supporting-students-agency-take-two/ (See “Developing Assessment Capable Students” Section)
- Allow choice but insist on depth: https://timespaceeducation.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/allowchoiceinsistondepth/
Focusing on CONCEPTS amid curriculum requirements:
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto
3 Replies to “Inquiry: What Trajectory Are YOU On?”
I really enjoyed this post, Mary. I felt the excitement of being there and joining in this professional learning with you. I like to see the focus on learning rather than teaching. That can be a difficult concept for teachers to grasp. I especially appreciate the reflection exercise: I used to think/now I know. That’s powerful.
Thanks so much, Norah! It can indeed, but I think once a teacher has experienced that “aha” moment of focusing on the learning (rather than solely on the teaching), they are set on an incredible trajectory that can change our practice forever.