Wisdom Begins with Wonder

Don’t do inquiry

No, I’m not trying reverse psychology here.  I really don’t want you to do inquiry in your classroom.  Seriously.

10 Reasons NOT to do inquiry:

10. Inquiry is too loud and too messy

You bet it is!  There will be times where every student is doing something different and stuff is everywhere around the room.  Kids moving all over the room.  Lots of talking.  Materials here and there.  Your custodian may learn to hate you.  Save yourself the headache.

9. Inquiry is hard to grade

You’ll get no argument from me here.  Inquiry IS hard to grade.  If grades are more important than learning in your world then, by all means, don’t do inquiry.

8. Test scores might not go up

Then again, they just might… Billy’s in the back of the room on the brink of drowning in his own drool puddle.  Lucia and Jiselle are passing notes texting each other across the room.  Shaun is surreptitiously listening to his iPod.  Is your lecture preparing them for the state assessment?

7. School is not a democracy

Neither is America.  Students might start to expect to have a say in what they learn; we can’t have that!  What’s next, teachers having a say in what they teach?

6. It’s not easy

Drill and kill, worksheets, videos on Friday, giving the same lecture every year, textbooks, pacing guides, etc. are all much easier to do.  They’re easier for the students too – because they don’t have to think.  Who wants to think anyway – thinking is hard work!

5. There’s no test generator for that!

You’ve got me there!  Inquiry based test generator is an oxymoron.

4. It won’t prepare them for college

Maybe that says more about college than it does about kids and how they learn?  In reality, though, a kid who knows how to think and learn will probably do okay in college.

3. It won’t prepare them for the “real world”

Nope.  No boss wants an employee who can take on a project, manage that project independently and deliver a quality result at the end.  Mindless drones in cubicles is what they really want.  We’ve all seen Office Space!

2. I might lose “control” of the classroom

Can you lose something you never really had in the first place?  Control over a kid’s behavior is an illusion.  I work with a teacher who is really proud of the discipline in his classroom.  His car gets keyed regularly.  He gets prank phone calls in the middle of the night at home.  He’s in control inside his classroom, though.

1. School isn’t supposed to be fun!

Neither is work… I must not be doing it right, then.

Do inquiry because you want to love teaching.  Do it because you love students.  Do inquiry because you love to see kids discover things for themselves and take pride in that discovery.  Do it because inquiry based teaching is supported by years of research on learning (see How People Learn, Brain Rules, etc.).  Do it because students need to develop the skills to be life-long learners.  Do inquiry because it empowers young people to take ownership of their learning.  Do it because it allows for differentiation for student needs and learning preferences.

Don’t do it because some dude with a blog said to.



6 comments ↓

  • #   alan stange on 07.31.10 at 4:05 pm     

    Well done, I could not agree with you more. I think inquiry is actually less work and more fun.


  • #   Mr. Rice on 07.31.10 at 4:55 pm     

    Shhh… don’t tell anyone that! Then people might start doing inquiry. Imagine, a whole generation of independent thinkers who love to learn. Chaos would break out!


  • #   Brunsell on 08.02.10 at 4:56 am     

    Nice post – I wish I would have seen this last week! I just finished facilitating a workshop with 21 teachers on using and assessing science inquiry. We had the teachers do their own inquiry project (we were at an environmental field research station). They are all really pretty excited to start using what they learned (and planned) in their classroom this year.

    It would have been great to show them this blog post to temper their enthusiasm!


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.03.10 at 8:35 pm     

    You know – I did this as a rebuttal to naysayers but also as a reality check. If a teacher decides to jump in to inquiry, they need to realize that it’s going to be bumpy. Hopefully, if they go in with their eyes wide open, they won’t quit when an inquiry task bombs – as some inevitably will!


  • #   Chris Young on 08.08.10 at 10:05 am     

    I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog and this post in particular. I’ve been thinking a lot about incorporating more open inquiry into my classroom and find the idea both exhilerating and terrifying. Thanks for the inspiration.


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.09.10 at 3:01 pm     

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Inquiry is both terrifying and exhilarating (but much more of the latter). That’s because you are learning as much as, or more than, your students. Good luck!


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