Design-based thinking. Problem-based-learning. Student-centered learning. Project-based-learning. There are a host of ways to frame designing learning experiences for youth that revolve around inquiry, utilizing the general template of students: (1) Asking a question (2) Doing some research (3) Crafting an artifact or paper or project to demonstrate your sense-making and (4) Reflecting on the entire process. There’s also a lot of (perhaps rightful) angst about overly-utopian portrayals of such pedagogies.
We wanted to dip our toes into more inquiry based pedagogies with the people who know best (faculty in the trenches), so a little over a year ago we sent out a call for interested folks to apply to be part of a summer/school year group of fellows engaging in research, preparation, and implementation of inquiry based learning practices.
Many answered the call, and we were thrilled to engage with four faculty across divisions to devise very different projects for implementation. Matt Luter (upper school, English) worked with place as a site for memory with his high school students. Ruthie Taylor (middle school, drama) engaged youth in an exploration of theater traditions across the world as well as devised productions that center social justice. Val Dembny (4th grade, math) and Kathy-Vial (lower school, science) explored various levels of question-asking for sense-making.
In no cases did projects go off without a hitch. In all cases these pathways were doubly difficult because of pandemics and concurrent teaching/learning and masks and and and. . . . However in all cases youth stretched themselves and faculty learned how to pave the way for more success in future iterations. And lucky us, because during a faculty PD in April, we all became the benefactors of their collective and individual journeys.
Missed the sessions but wish you could have been there? You can! Just check out the google meet recordings/resources below and get ready for nuanced, real-life takes on inquiry based learning in classroom spaces during a very strange, very challenging school year.
Kathy Vial’s “”Introducing Inquiry-based concepts into your classroom without headaches or tears (yours)“
In this session I’ll introduce the components of a true inquiry lesson: there is a back and forth flow of knowledge between the teacher and students. It begins when the teacher poses an idea or concept and then asks targeted questions. This leads to students sharing their ideas and asking additional questions.
Ruthie Taylor’s “When going wrong goes right: Wrestling with the tensions and learning from mistakes in inquiry-based projects”
Are you worried about how inquiry might go wrong? (or at least differently than you expected)In this session we’ll discuss some of the missteps, mistakes, and tensions that came up through 4 iterations of Performance Traditions Inquiry Projects with 5th Grade students and strategies for adapting to diverse student needs and interest levels.
“Hands-on research, hands-off guidance in a writing classroom“
In this session I’ll share the assignment I’ve designed for a senior seminar in Southern literature, address how I’ve altered it from fall to spring semester, and then we’ll reflect together on the tension between guiding student inquiry and keeping control of students’ work in students’ hands.
Val Dembny’s “The importance of questions in the classroom”
Have you ever wondered how many questions a teacher asks a day? Did you know that there are different types and levels of questions you can utilize in the classroom? We will discuss why questions are such an important part of the learning process and how they lead inquiry.