As I reflect on what lays ahead of me in the subject LCN616 and Inquiry Learning and how I intend to proceed, in my mind’s eye I’m zooming through a vast black space which is the universe. There is an occasional Black Hole which though tempted to jump in I avoid, to go forward where ‘no (wo)man has gone before’. Yes, I loved Star Trek as a younger person and while I will never get to captain the Enterprise, in my own mind I can lead an exploration into the outer reaches of Inquiry Learning.
So, down to business!
While the temptation for me is to work backwards, that is already know how this journey is going to end and have all the right answers, I’ve decided to launch myself from the very beginning. I’ve decided to approach this blog with the idea in mind that I am teaching my colleagues how to conduct a learning inquiry. For me to do this I need to connect with the feelings and emotions and ideas of my initial thoughts and what I perceive to be the initial thoughts of many teachers.
“Inquiry learning? What do you mean? Teach children how to learn by using inquiry? Really? What do you think I’ve been doing all this time? I’ve inquired, the children have inquired and I teach. End of story!”
But now I’m hearing that big buzzer going off in my head. That one, when a question is answered incorrectly on a quiz show.
So, in this initial post, I’m not going to refer to any of the literature. Just my thoughts and my questions and my initial search.
Of course I’m not completely without some idea of what Inquiry Learning is. What I know is:
It starts from a very young age. It starts off as fun and then it gets squashed out of us as we move through school. There, I said it. This prompts my first question. Does teaching children how to find information and how the process works engage more children in learning?
Learning from an inquiry starts off big. There is a question, problem or issue that needs resolving. How do we pull in all the resources and information that we need and sort through the information to produce a relevant and correct learning outcome? For example, if I want to explore the possibility that there is life on other planets, where do I go for the information so that the inquiry can be resolved and therefore learned. In short I’m thinking that’s a librarian type question. How do we get the relevant information in the shortest way possible?
Thirdly, learning is a cognitive process. As teachers we know that learning is constructed and scaffolded. What role and how much of a role, does HOW we learn have on the inquiry process?
For me Inquiry Learning means many things. It means engaging with our minds to answer questions. We must leap from our inner ‘context’ to our outer ‘context’. We bring in information from the outside, process and sort it and from this process draw conclusions. However, through the process of computing the information, how well we learn is affected by many internal constructs such as, for example, whether we are engaged or whether we have the cognitive ability to understand.
But let’s see what Google has to say. Using the search term ‘define “inquiry learning”, the top result read :
“Inquiry learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental and analytical skills rather than how much knowledge they possess.” Vincent Jonker
Scanning the first 5 results pages and web pages I have chosen what I believe are key words or phrases which jumped out at me as the most common and relevant in understanding the concept Inquiry Learning. In no particular order :
In diving in and out of those first 5 pages of results and screening some of the web pages I have postulated 3 further questions :
- How do children with special needs fit and/or are inclusive to inquiry-based projects and/or classrooms?
- How does an Inquiry based approach fit into a prescribed and mandated curriculum?
- It is evident that there are many and varied definitions for Inquiry Learning as well as how it is manifested within the classroom. Is it possible that it’s definition lays in the fact that it cannot be precisely defined, but is adaptable to varying classroom situations?
And so I find myself in that uncomfortable space where I don’t know the answer.
The learning journey begins!