Inquiry learning is a concept I encountered blindly when beginning this course. I had a goal to learn more about it and how to apply it in my classroom, of course, but for the most part I’d been under the impression, even until this week, that inquiry learning is all about what I’m able to get my students to accomplish. I was so focused on this process by which I could get my students to take control of their learning that I failed to see that truly, inquiry learning starts with me! Inquiry learning truly is a process, and preparing for that process is just as important as implementing it. In her article titled “Five Roles of the Inquiry Teacher,” Shelley Wright describes some the of the hiccups involved in the inquiry-based classroom and how important the teacher’s role is in helping students to overcome those issues. In preparing for this, I’ve learned that I must prepare by asking myself, “What difficulties and questions might students have with this?” and try to prepare solutions for these issues should they arrive. However, I can’t very-well give them the solutions, can I? Not with inquiry learning! Therefore, I must also prepare to help students find those solutions. This in itself embodies the definition of inquiry-based learning.
I currently teach 9th grade literature. For my mini-lessons, I plan to explore a concept I teach in my first unit of the year, “The Stages of the Hero’s Journey.” I normally teach the stages and assign a very specific project in which students use a chosen movie to demonstrate their understanding of the stages. However, I’d like to explore ways for students to “discover” these stages and demonstrate their understanding in a new way. I will give more opportunities for the use of technology in not only research, but also in presentation. Perhaps they will even make their own movies to demonstrate the stages!
- One learning goal I have set for myself related to this class is to learn a variety of ways to apply inquiry-based learning in my classroom.
- A second learning goal I have is to be able to synthesize information (especially when I’m overwhelmed with so much of it!) to determine what strategies will work best in particular contexts.
Reflecting on the learning goals I set for myself at the beginning of the course, I do see that, although I haven’t yet reached them, I have made some solid progression toward my goals. Each week I am learning more and more about inquiry-based learning and ways to apply it in my classroom. Even this week, we read about establishing a growth mindset in our students and classroom culture. I’ve learned that if I can instill and nurture a growth mindset in my students, I will be equipping them to be lifelong learners and to carry that mindset with them against any challenging task. I loved the quote that Eduardo Briceno gave from Josh Waitzkin: “The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.”
My second goal dealt with the ability to synthesize information; however, I feel the need to edit that to include the ability to curate information for my students and their particular needs. I now see that that starts with teaching them the skills needing to be good digital citizens as well as competent with Digital Information Fluency (DIF). The findings from the research by Miller and Bartlett show that there is a major discrepancy in students’ need to use the internet/search engines and their ability to do it correctly and safely. I do like the idea of having that curated list of resources for my students related to ethical use; however, I still would like to learn more about curating. What makes me an expert on what my students should be using? How do I truly avoid “filtering”? Am I limiting them by having them use my list instead of finding their own resources? These are the thoughts and questions I’m left with as I proceed through the course.
I am so intrigued by the idea of our instruction and classroom operation being like a game of soccer. When it really counts, when students are showing what they can really do with what we’ve taught them, there are no time-outs. It is no longer a drill, and it no longer looks exactly like the examples we’ve been through, but the students have got to be able to use what they’ve learned and mold it and apply it to a new setting. In his blog post, Grant Wiggins states, “if you tape your own classes you will find that you are providing endless advice on how to do things and more often than not co-opting the development of judgement.” This was like a light bulb to me. If I’m helping to determine how students should judge and perceive the problem I set in front of them, then they are likely to tackle other problems the exact same way, when really, I should not be giving them advice on how to solve the problem, but rather teaching them the skills necessary to make a sound judgment initially, one that is of their own thinking and not of mine. This will go much farther than their current skills being confined to one setting.
From the webinar we watched, I am especially interested in the idea of “building teachers” for today’s classroom environment. Teachers certainly have quite a different role in the classroom and they did 20 years ago. Students are now able to “Google” the information they need instead of solely relying on the teacher. One of the speakers in the webinar asks the question, “What are the knowledge skills and dispositions–if we focus on just the teachers–what do the teachers have to have, and how do we build that?” This goes back to equipping teachers in a different way than before; it goes back to equipping teachers to “let go.”
Upon initial viewing of this week’s readings and topics, I expected to get insight on some searching strategies I could teach my students. Although many assignments in my classroom require some researching on the students’ part, I normally don’t spend much time teaching them how to search. I assume that since the topics they are searching aren’t very deep, searching for the information they need won’t require a lot of skill. However, after reading the articles and watching the videos this week, I discovered that even I am guilty of some of the common mistakes of the “Google Generation”!
The article titled “Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future” cited the Google Generation as being those who were born after 1993. Even though I was born a few years before that, I do identify with many of the common traits of those in the Google Generation, especially from before I earned a college degree, when performing research was still pretty new to me. The same article discussed in depth the short attention span of today’s generation, especially when it comes to having many resources on the same topic. I can certainly relate. Even with my graduate courses, my attention span will not last long enough for me to read several of the assigned articles in one day. The difference is, that while teens habitually discard much of the information or only read the first couple of pages, I’ve had to train myself to divide the reading material into multiple days.
The resources also discussed the issue of students simply turning to Google search for everything instead of sifting through some of the more academic sites and e-journals. I agree that there does lie an issue; however, I don’t debunk Google search altogether for information. It’s just that students don’t have the skills they need to correctly perform a search on Google. As stated in “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World,” “Speed is their objective, not quality.” Students commonly perform a Google search by typing in an entire question. I was even guilty of this during the Google Challenge! But we’ve got to teach them correct searching methods such as those described in the video “Even better search results: Getting to know the Google Search for Education.” We’ve got to teach them to think about how the answer might be presented and search for that, rather than searching for their exact wording of a question.
That brings us to the next topic: curating research for them. I honestly am a little torn on this topic, although I do lean more to the side of curating. If I provide all the necessary resources for the students to do research on a particular topic, to an extent, am I not depriving them of learning how to find those resources for themselves? I feel that part of learning how to do “good” research is learning how to sift through the good and the bad, through the credible and non-credible. I also run the risk of creating a “filter bubble,” curating only the resources I “agree” with, perhaps. To avoid this, I would have to have some sort of system for “checking” myself to be sure that I’m including all the resources necessary. At the same time, at what age should students be expected to do this for themselves? I currently teach ninth grade, where students are at a major transitioning point in learning about research. I could certainly see the necessity of curating resources at least for the first half of the school year.
Upon absorbing the ideas addressed within the three articles and the video, I see a common thread, which is using the information that is at our fingertips (including our students’ fingertips) to enhance what we do and learn on a daily basis. While the YouTube video, “InfoWhelm and Information Fluency,” more or less poses the questions and makes the viewer really think about how many resources are available to our students, the articles dive into how to organize that information and use it.
Specifically, Alexander and Barseghian both explain how they each have a system. Alexander describes his system for sifting through information on a daily basis, while Barseghian discusses ways that she allows her students to use that information to “free” themselves, if you will, and to take charge of their own learning.
While Lirenman does not explain the “how” quite as well, she does pose an interesting point on the importance of using the technology we have, even if it’s overwhelming at first, and using it to enhance the learning in our classrooms instead of just using it for the sake of using it.