The reason I do inquiry in the classroom is for the students. I know is seems obvious but implementing inquiry has taken lots of time and planning but the results and positive feedback from students has made it all worthwhile.
Here are things to consider along with your first classroom inquiry:
Why do you want to try Inquiry?
When planning your first inquiry be sure to ask yourself what it is that you want to achieve and how you will know it is successful. This is an important first step that is easy to overlook.
Find another teacher (or two) to join you on this journey. At a middle school we are fortunate to have a common team preparation time to meet and plan on a weekly basis. Inquiry is such a dynamic process that requires tweaks and check-ins with students and co-teachers to keep everything on track.
Inquiry is interdisciplinary by definition so you need to find time and lots of it for you and the students to get lost in the process. When inquiry is going well it is extremely engaging for the students and they will likely be able saying, “we need more time to ______”. While this is a good thing for teachers to hear, it requires time to be set aside to allow for this expansion.
If you only have a small amount of time then consider just a few classes where a new unit is started with a thoughtful question to engage and hook the attention of students.
Consider the role of technology
Technology can play a powerful and engaging role at all stages of the inquiry from mind-mapping, collaborating to presenting. It can also be very distracting for students. Decide on a role for the technology that is meaningful.
Pick a BIG idea
Last year our team used the theme “What would happen if everyone cared?” There are obvious ties to social justice and the environment that connected students to their own personal inquiry topics with both historical and current events.
A broad theme can then be used to tie together the curricular connections to the subject outcomes. We like to talk about teaching Social Studies or Science through Inquiry.
Scaffold the process
Students needs support all along the way to be successful with Inquiry. It is easy for them to pick such a large inquiry project that they get lost in the process. Have constant check-ins with various graphic organizers so that you and they know how they are doing.
We also used a process of designing 12 ‘mini-courses’ for students to learn more about themselves as learners and about inquiry itself. These included: learner profile, Bloom’s taxonomy, Myer Briggs personality, learner style, multiple intelligences and more. We felt that having this foundation of knowledge about inquiry would help students throughout the process.
Choose a single model and stick to it.
Our team decided to use the framework offered by the BC Teacher-Librarians called the ‘Points of Inquiry’. There are so many great models out there that it can be confusing. Having a single source really simplifies the process when designing the inquiry. Other sources to further explore include: Alberta Education “Focus on Inquiry” [pdf], Mindshift Blog, BIE (Project Based Learning) or Edutopia.
I’m happy to share any resources that were created through the process. Let me know what you what to know more about!
Thoughts and Comments
I’m sure there are glaring omissions and suggestions from other teachers. I’d be interested in learning from others. Post your comments here.