Friday, January 25, 2013

Inquiry into inquiry

Curiosity : Dianne McKenzie 2012 CC

I have been doing some personal research into inquiry and trying to create a clearer picture for myself so I can work with students & teachers with a clear vision of what it can look like, what tools can be used and how scaffolds can be created without it becoming over burdensome for student or teacher.

I do know about inquiry and how it all works, being well drilled in library school with the different models, research and thinking, however, how do I articulate this when working with others? The new IB  MYP Humanities guide has students creating action plans before they start researching on any of their topics. It has been the first year this has been introduced and is a good step to help students plan their inquiry and, as we work through these, we have been modifying and tweeking them to remove or change the format to make it easier for the students and, to extract information that may be missing. We also hope to make it less burdensome for the students to complete.

As I learn more about inquiry through reading "Guided Inquiry"  and "Guided inquiry design" based on Carol Collier Kuhlthau's research and then think about what is happening in the classroom, one huge block to effective and deep learning is the time devoted to or allowed for students to fully experience good inquiry. There are deadlines to meet, new units to start and many other variables. I have been thinking about strategies to overcome this, but not come up with anything to implement yet.

As part of my inquiry I experimented with a learning journal at an IB Librarians workshop I was facilitating last weekend. Participants were given 7 questions to answer with time allocated at the end of each 90 minute session to formulate answers to these questions. They did not need to answer every question, just any they felt they wanted to answer and, they could answer in any form they wanted.

The questions were :
1. What did you learn in this session?
2. What surprised or was new to you?
3. What did you already know about? How did you know?
4. What are some ideas that seem new to you?
5. What do you want to know more about?
6. What is something you would like to tell others about? 
7. What are some of the important ideas you are thinking about that you might like to implement into your practice? 

These questions are compiled using a number of different templates and information from  "Guided inquiry design".

I thought this might be an interesting experiment as these workshops are so full on over 3 days, that by the end of it everything is mashed up in your brain. To be able to reflect on each session gave the participants time to think about their learning and how they were feeling. At the end of the 12 sessions, they had a log of their learning and in some cases strategies to think about implementing into their practice. They could share their learning journal or not with others in the class.

Some of the participants forwarded their final journal to me at the end of the workshop and this was enlightening. Firstly I could see if what they had learned aligned with the learning intentions I had set for the session. Their thinking was visible to me about how they were forming new ideas and understandings about the topic and how they were going to turn this into action, which was also exciting.

In many instances we get the inquiry process up to the 'creation and handing in' covered OK, but the reflection is usually an after thought. Working in an IB school, reflection is supposed to an integral part of the curriculum. This experiment with the learning journal allowed me to see how continuous reflection can be so very powerful for both the reflector and the teacher. I will be trying to implement something like this into the classes I work with.

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