Thoughts on inquiry

Students testing water quality

Students testing water quality

All of my reading and work this summer has led me to the same conclusion… that I need to make my classroom much more learner centered and inquiry based.

Although I’ve had a rich, inquiry-style curriculum the past few years, I feel that it has become increasingly teacher centered. In other words, I’ve continued to build and “perfect” a curriculum to the point that I’ve taken away much of the opportunity for the students to have any genuine choice in the direction of the investigation.

Rather than just trying to build in more choices of product type for the kids, I’m building in more choice in general.

In order to make this happen, I am committing to the following tenets:

I WILL…

  • give my students the opportunity to engage in true inquiry – asking and answering their own questions.
  • teach my students to design experiments or do research to answer their questions.
  • teach my students to gather data and evidence to answer their questions.
  • teach my students to communicate and defend their answers using their data and evidence.

I’m sure this will lead to chaos and frustration at times but it will be worth it.

How People Learn

So, I read “How People Learn” this summer.  The first 2 chapters really made me think.  A lot.  They made me really deeply examine my teaching methods.  And what I found out was that I was doing a lot of things right but that I had a lot of room to improve.  So I’ve decided to reinvent my classes – again (my wife says I do this every year).

Am I throwing the baby out with the bathwater?  NO!  But I am going to critically examine all of the things that I’ve had students do in class in the past.  The ones that were bad beyond repair will be nuked.  Everything else will be improved, tweaked, fine-tuned, revamped, revised and remade.

“How People Learn” basically says that people learn when 3 things happen:

  1. prior knowledge is activated
  2. learning is in-depth and provides a factual base
  3. learning is metacognitive.

These are the guiding principles of my classroom reinvention.  Wish me luck because I’m going to need it!