Sunday, April 21, 2013

Inquiry Based Learning.

In a traditional classroom, the teacher is the center of attention, the owner of knowledge the main person that gives out the information.  Teachers often ask questions of their students to gauge comprehension, but it's a passive model that relies on students to absorb information they need to reproduce on tests.  What do you do if you reverse the situation?  What if the students ask the questions and find out their own questions.  That's Inquiry Based Learning.

After a session at one of the Digital Learning Series Dinners I came away with many of my own questions.  How do I incorporate this means of learning in my classroom.  Isn't it part of Project Based Learning?  Do the two work together?  Neil Stephenson (Thinking in Mind, Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning, @NeilStephenson) was and is, an excellent speaker who helped me come up with my own questions of inquiry. Neil is the District Prinicpal of Innovation and Inquiry, from Delta School District.  The archive can be found here. He runs an Intro to Inquiry-Based Learning blog here.  Neil used to work at the Calgary Science School which supports grades 4-9 students. Their blog documents the learning at the school by both students and teachers. Stephen's presentation was informative, humorist and just plain good.  He made me think.  And isn't that what you want people to do when they come listen to a speaker?  

So what follows are some questions of my own and some of the answers I've come up with, as well as some of some areas to look further into.  Hope this helps you.  

What is Inquiry Based Learning?  Very simply it's when students ask questions to find out the answers.  Use collaborative learning and deep engagement with complex problems for students to solve.  The more realistic the problem, the better for students.   There is no problem unrealistic that can not be real in the end.  Thus the video below.  

If you haven't seen this before, it's excellent to show students, that when you ask a question no idea is too silly.  You need to be able to teach students taht the more open to divergent ways of thinking about problems, more open to exploring and understanding differrent ways of perceiving the world and less concerned with providing firm solutions to problems that do not have simple or unique solutions, the better equip you are for real life.

This is an excellent video to start up your questions.

For more information about getting students to ask the big questions you can read the book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana.  The book "Make Just One Change;  Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions", documents a step-by-step process to help students formulate and prioritize questions about nearly everything.  

As seen above, coming up with the right questions involves hard thinking of the problem, looking at it at all angles, turning the situation all around, and using "open-ended" questions and prioritizing which are the most important questions to get at the heart of the matter.  

So where do we go from here?  We look at getting our own questions answered.  Here is a list of resources online for you to read for further information.  I hope this information helps you in your own inquiry.

Inquiry Education Resources
The links to the videos he shared to spark our conversation are below.

Thank you.  I hope this blog entry helps you on your own trail of inquiring questions.

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