Regardless of age or skill level, everyone responds better and learns more when they are actively involved in the whole learning process. Inquiry is fundamentally about developing thinking skills and so, when the brain is engaged through real inquiry, and teachers and students have opportunities to truly collaborate in the learning process, everyone is happier, more satisfied and excited about the learning.
Topic 1: How Inquiry Works: Indicators of when an inquiry is happening and types of inquiry
There are different types of inquiry. Some are structured and others are quite free, allowing for exploration and discovery. Each has its place in a well-balanced teaching and learning program. In each type of inquiry, the teacher and students take on different roles and responsibilities. Inquiry, like all good learning and teaching, is not linear but there are steps we can identify and plan for to support ourselves as we teach and our students as they learn.
Topic 2: Identifying What You Will Learn About: What is worth learning?
It has often been my experience that childrens’ interests connect in many ways with the written curriculum that I am teaching. The trick is to make connections between what your students are interested in learning about and the curriculum you are teaching. I have worked with many curriculum frameworks, both national and international, and I have always found that it is better for everyone in my classroom if I can bring the learners to the curriculum rather than bringing the curriculum to the learners. I will share some techniques I have developed for doing this and demonstrate how teaching and learning through inquiry can have all of the rigor and structure that is necessary to be a responsible teacher while maintaining a dynamic and exciting classroom environment, based on student choice and shared decision-making.
Topic 3: Roles and Responsibilities
As we involve students in their own learning through choice, shared decision-making, problem-solving, and real-life thinking, we help them develop an amazing set of life-learning skills and competencies. Teaching students (and teachers!) to ask good questions is fundamental to the success of true inquiry. We will discuss who asks the questions, how we identify open and closed questions (or thin and thick questions), and who searches for answers to questions. We will also explore a range of resource materials, including the power of using primary research sources to engage students in real inquiry, leaving a “Google search” as a last resort!
Topic 4: How Inquiring and Learning Together Helps Everyone Learn
There are times when individual learning is important and necessary. There are also times when working in pairs, small groups, and as a whole class are effective and help everyone learn and develop knowledge, skills, and understandings. We will discuss how true collaboration is different from “group work” and how to recognize when it is really happening among your students. We will also share experiences about when you have learned with your students rather than “teaching” them and consider the power of this for you and your students. Here we explore the role of the teacher as a model of how to learn, think, solve problems, make decisions and reflect on their learning process as a powerful tool to build relationships with and among your students.
Topic 5: Sharing and Celebrating Inquiry: Process and product
If, at the beginning of an inquiry process, we ask our students, “How will we know what we have learned?”, we have already prepared them for assessment tasks. Assessment does not only happen at the end of an inquiry. It is an ongoing process of learning, questioning, agreeing, disagreeing, reviewing, unlearning, relearning, and being prepared to change one’s mind. A true inquiry experience makes the classroom operate much more like the real world and this is such a valuable learning experience for students; it is not a clean, linear process. We will discuss how students can be engaged in setting their own goals, learning targets, and assessment tasks and guiding them to provide constructive self and peer assessment feedback, at any age.