Sunday, 25 November 2012

Process of Inquiry…..

“Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand” is the foundation for why inquiry based learning is so important. Inquiry based learning involves seeking truth, information, or knowledge by questioning.

What is the process for inquiry? This question may in fact not be a straight forward answer. As I will share there are a few common features of all plans and a variety of models being used in schools.

Inquiry involves the human senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. Infants make connections to the world by inquiring. They observe faces that come near, they grasp objects, they put things in their mouths, and they turn toward voices. It is natural. Although it is most often associated with science, inquiry-based learning is used to engage students of all ages, in all subject areas, to learn by exploration and discovery.

Memorizing and regurgitating information and facts is not a critical skill in the world today. Facts change and will change rapidly and information is available anywhere, 24/7. Inquiry based learning allows students to learn how to build their own understanding of a problem and thus produce deeper connections. Because the connection to the learning is deeper the chances are that the student will remember the concept and then be able to apply the understanding to new situations as they arise.

Monday, 12 November 2012

One Size Fits All?

flickr image via cameronparkins

Glendale School is now an inquiry-focused, sciences and technology kindergarten to eighth grade school... elements that when put together can also be called my dream job. Our school is in its third year of this paradigm shift toward a custom-built K-8 inquiry, sciences and technology context. I believe that our evolving school context creates an optimal environment to perpetuate the learning goals of our District.

The inquiry part of what we're doing at our school is what I want to focus on here. What is inquiry, and how are we building an inquiry-based school? This is the inquiry question we've been working on answering. To me, the process of answering this question is what's so exciting about being part of Glendale school's transformation. Our group of teachers are all at different places in their understanding of inquiry, technology and sciences, and that is not only OK, it is expected in an inquiry-based learning environment. We all have personal learning tendencies. Some like to go fast, take risks and make mistakes... others are more cautious and calculated, but everyone needs to be supported if we are to effectively balance the professional development needs of all staff. I believe it is very important to remember that an inquiry-based school doesn't work very well as a one-size-fits-all environment to address this diversity.

It is very important that we, (meaning all members of the school family: students, staff, parents and significant community members as partners,) have a collective vision and mission that guide our practice, but it's also very important that each individual member of our school understands that the collective vision and mission does not dictate that there is only one correct way to do something, and that we don't all have to be at the same place, and on the same timeline as we learn forward. If we were to believe so as teachers, we would not be modeling an authentic inquiry teaching and learning context, as surely we understand that our students don't learn in the same way, and at the same pace. The inquiry learning process is in part driven by the students themselves making it impossible to line everyone up in order of learning space and learning time. From Alberta Education on inquiry learning,
Effective inquiry is more than just asking questions. Inquiry-based learning is a complex process where students formulate questions, investigate to find answers, build new understandings, meanings and knowledge, and then communicate their learning's to others. In classrooms where teachers emphasize inquiry-based learning, students are actively involved in solving authentic (real-life) problems within the context of the curriculum and/or community. These powerful learning experiences engage students deeply.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The True Spirit of Inquiry... 
Here we are early in the formation of a new school. Not just another building, I believe we have the opportunity to build a place where students can experience learning in a unique fashion... a school where inquiry is the foundation for all classroom and field studies... a school where technology is used in a seamless fashion... a school that will provide a safe place to share ideas, be wrong and be encouraged to find out why... a school that has a culture where asking the question is the most important thing.... a school that is accepting of all, for who they are and who they are becoming. So we begin.

When I moved into my new role just a little over a year ago, I found that the process of inquiry had already been presented but that a true understanding of what this might look like was not well formed. Many of the staff really were not sure what a Science and Technology school would or could look like.

As the year began we started mapping our future. We modeled our mind map for this journey after the district education plan using the three pillars of literacy, high school completion and inclusion as we plotted our course. Literacy was being supported by the district with PD and resources. Inclusion was in it's infancy but we have a strong staff and a plan in place. High school completion we believed came down to keeping students engaged and interested in school. This is where we put the schools Science and Technology focus. We felt that when we established a strong program in these areas we would be the sciences and technology school we wanted to be and would have the students engaged and interested in learning.