Why do many teachers hesitate to allow their students to truly pursue the answers to their own questions?
Fear and Loathing
Fear of the unknown – it’s what causes people to be scared of the dark. True student inquiry is “the dark.” It’s where the whims and interests of students can lead you down a path that might be uncomfortable – or even disastrous. So, what do we do? We put inquiry in a box.
We say, here is your question and the procedure for you to follow. Why aren’t you motivated? This is a LAB!
Sure, hands on is better than worksheets and lectures. But here’s a news flash – labs can be boring too.
Students don’t necessarily learn any more from traditional – or, even, “guided inquiry” – activities than they do from lectures and worksheets.
Why not? Because all of the important thinking is done for them. Then they are left with a glorified worksheet with procedures to follow, tables to complete and discussion questions to answer at the end. Good for you, you just created a “hands-on” worksheet.
Why do we do this? Loathing.
We loathe the things that come with giving students freedom. Kids are off task. The noise level rises. Chaos erupts. The veteran teacher next door peers into your room and glowers disapprovingly (at the noisy students, of course, never at you). Parents complain that nothing new has shown up on the computer grading system for 2 weeks (quick, give ‘em a worksheet – that’ll fix ‘em!).
Fear and loathing – the enemies of inquiry.