Sunday, June 4, 2017

LLED 469 - Inquiry Learning by Design and Essential Questions

Module 7 starts with comparing traditional research and inquiry and lists the reasons inquiry-based learning is superior to traditional research models. Traditional research is seen as teacher-centered, linear, and shallow, whereas inquiry is student-centered, active, and participatory. While I can understand the intellectual argument for inquiry-based learning, I find that I have an emotional reaction to this viewpoint. I was taught in the traditional way and was a successful student, so perhaps I am feeling defensive because the module implies that my education was shallow.
I think it’s useful to notice this initial reaction and realize that others may feel defensive about the way they teach. Being aware that my colleagues may feel unsure about IBL will help me plan for Pro-D teaching opportunities. If I know some staff members are already familiar with inquiry and are perhaps taking part in their own professional inquiry, I might choose to work in a small group with them before bringing ideas to the whole staff as suggested in Fontichiaro’s “Nudging toward inquiry – Building inquiry understanding with colleagues”. I liked her suggestions of activities such as “Inquiry looks like this, but not like this” and analyzing an anonymous unit plan to transform it into inquiry.
Wiggins and McTighe outline an education planning approach in Understanding by Design. I like how it works backwards and looks at the outcomes you want to see and starts from there. By thinking about assessment in step two, you ensure the assessment is authentic and not just an afterthought.
Transforming a school culture to one that supports inquiry-based learning seems to go hand in hand with transforming a library to a library learning commons. A learning commons offers many features that work well with inquiry-based learning. It has modular furniture that can be moved into different configurations for individual and collaborative work. It has access to the internet and the wide variety of digital resources that can be found online. It also has quiet spaces necessary for reflection.
I found the discussion of Makerspaces exciting and can see how the variety of materials in a Makerspace would lead to inquiry. In the school where I teach one day a week, we have some elements of a Makerspace in our library, but there is much more we could do. We have a computer lab with thirty desktop computers as well as a set of about thirty iPads. Next year, one teacher plans to teach coding. We have a loft above the library stocked with multiple types of yarn and a knitting club meets there occasionally. I’d like to purchase some supplies so we could explore areas mentioned in Fontichiaro’s “Nudging toward inquiry – Makerspaces: Inquiry and CCSS” such as sewing with eTextiles, electronic circuits, and coding. However, before rushing out to buy robots, I will be making a plan for what I want the Makerspace to accomplish. I found another article by Fontichiaro entitled “Sustaining a Makerspace” that advises that teacher librarians have a purpose for their Makerspace. She also drew on her experience running Makerspaces to suggest using reusable materials that are flexible. Another useful recommendation was to ask for donations of time, money, and supplies to outfit your Makerspace .I am personally involved in the Vancouver Maker Community as a founding member of the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and I have participated in the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire since its inception in 2011. I would certainly be happy to bring in a sewing machine and some of my scrap fabric to let students build their sewing skills.
I can see how my inquiry into inquiry will have a recursive nature as I move from an initial introduction to IBL concepts to further experiences with inquiry. For example, the readings in module eight gave me an understanding of essential questions, but I’m sure that will be deepened when I develop essential questions for my inquiry unit. The recursive nature of inquiry is mentioned in the Points of Inquiry framework.
The importance of learning how to ask good questions was clearly shown in the readings in this module. Unfortunately, many students have had their innate curiosity quashed in traditional classrooms, so they need to re-learn the skill of asking questions. Fontichiaro had a suggestion of teaching primary students how to ask open-ended questions by giving them coloured tongue depressors so they could show whether they thought a question was a red light question (closed) or a green light question (open). I could see myself trying this as I find that students need scaffolding in order to ask essential questions. Rothstein and Santana also believe that students can successfully ask excellent questions when given practice. In “Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions” they give a framework for question formulation. I am familiar with the brainstorming step with no judgement and feel that the next steps of improving questions, prioritizing the best ones, researching, and finally reflecting are a useful methodology. I look forward to giving this a try in the classroom and seeing how the students enjoy the process.
I enjoyed Fontichiaro’s two articles on using picture books to unlock prior knowledge and spur questions. I believe that picture books can be powerful hooks no matter the age of the students and I would like to see more teachers using them past the primary years. I particularly liked how the sticky note model allowed for a misconceptions section and allowed for modelling of how to switch an idea from one category to another when new ideas are learned.
Article that wasn’t part of our readings:
Fontichiaro, K. (2016). Sustaining a makerspace. Teacher Librarian, 43(4), 39-41. Retrieved from
This week, I added the words in purple to my mind map of Inquiry-Based Learning terms and ideas. Words in black are from week one.

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