This unit presented me with many obstacles and learning curves. Personally, I think the biggest hurdle was learning how to search like an expert and to ultimately ‘get my head around’ Boolean Operators and all the fancy techniques that go hand in hand. Not only did this unit present itself with entirely new concepts for me, it was also one of the most interesting, worthwhile and beneficial units I have done so far in my studies. The reason being, is that everything I have learnt in terms of searching, analysing, re-designing and challenging the structures of Inquiry learning have already appeared within my pedagogical approaches within the classroom – an instant and visible change in my teaching techniques. I am far more critical of the units I am currently teaching and starting from next year I will ensure there is much more of an inquiry approach evident in all my topics and lesson plans.
To be honest, before I knew about Inquiry learning, I did think it was a rather ‘airy fairy’ way of teaching. I had come across it in many of the schools I had worked in, but until I immersed myself in an IB school, it was only then did I start to see the value and fun you can have in the world of Inquiry. This unit further opened my eyes to these benefits and showed me that you can have units of inquiry that are flexible but at the same time, structured.
Some teachers may think that changing all the current units to ‘Units of inquiry’ is too much work and will take years, however there are ways you can simply add inquiry approaches and integrate certain techniques into current units. Teaching in an ‘inquiry way’ is a skill, so therefore, it is critical that if a school wants to reap the benefits of inquiry learning, the principal and higher powers of the education industry need to be on board and ensure teachers are being mentored and getting the support and development they need to learn how to adjust certain elements of their teaching styles to be able to teach in an inquiry manner.
One really important and critical aspect I have learned to appreciate during this unit is the power of peer feedback. I feel that as educators, this is a vital part of our learning and development, which ultimately allows for us to become the best possible educators. When I received feedback from my peers, I was so thankful that they had pointed out certain areas of improvement. This meant that I could reflect on these areas and adjust my work accordingly to ensure it was the best possible reflection of what I can really achieve. Not only does the feedback allow us to make changes for the better, it also gives us a boost of confidence and positivity towards our work, which we all need after a long semester of hard work!
To further explain the stages of my learning, I have linked them to the Inquiry Model of Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (Please refer to Final Post of Module 2 for a detailed explanation of the process)
Initiation – To begin with, I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew that I had to take a unit, analyse it and then make recommendations, however I was unsure as to what unit I should chose. One of the benefits of all the schools I have taught at has been that we make our own units of work and lesson plans, which meant I could simply ask the people involved if I could use it and publish it. This wasn’t too hard as I was part of writing the units myself. I noticed a gap in my knowledge as I wasn’t sure what it actually meant to ‘add elements of Inquiry Learning’ into a unit. I knew I had to start off by seeking information on all the topics I need to add in my analysis.
Selection – It was now time to choose my Unit. As I currently teach all year groups, I wanted to take a Unit from my Grade 5 class I had previously taught and go from there. The reason being is that I really enjoyed teaching the Goldfields when I taught in Australia but I always thought I could have taught it better and made it more fun and student centered. I felt much better after I had a look through the Unit and saw that it needed a lot of tweaking and could easily be turned into a unit that is more Inquiry focused.
Exploration – Once I was familiar with the unit, it was time to start exploring all the topics I had to cover and discuss in my analysis. This was rather overwhelming as I soon came to realise how much work would be required and research into each area. One element that I really needed to get my head around and do a lot of research on was the GeSTE Windows. Our lecturer, Mandy Lupton provided us with a wealth of knowledge and information that helped me to understand how it all worked in a variety of settings.
Formulation – Now that I had chosen my Unit and done all my research on the topics, I felt a lot more confident in starting my analysis. Mandy was very helpful in coming up with different ways to structure and set out the assignment so it was a relief and far less stressful to start once I knew the structure of my analysis.
Collection – The way I tackled my analysis was to break it into small parts and analyse each section one small part at a time. This meant that I could really look into each part of the Unit and reflect on the elements without feeling too overwhelmed.
Presentation – Once my analysis came together and I had come up with a variety of ways to enhance the Inquiry elements of the Unit, I felt extremely happy with myself and felt the Unit is now much more reflective of a Unit of Inquiry. I felt like if I were to pick up the Unit and teach from the document, it would now be a fun, inclusive and student centered Unit of Inquiry.
I have absolutely loved presenting my work in a ‘blogging and website’ format. I think this is the way forward for education as it means our work is out there for the world to see and hopefully learn a thing or two from what we have presented. It has also allowed us to start a lifelong teaching blog where we can start adding our own articles, classroom designs, ideas for children and also share our personal experiences we have in the classroom with the wide world of educators, students and parents. Technology connects teachers around the world, which is not only beneficial for us, but will ultimately filter through to provide a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for children of the future.
Of course, like all inquiry processes I am left with questions:
- How can you implement a more Inquiry approach of teaching into the school?
- Where can teachers find information about how to adapt their teaching style to learn how to ask the right questions and create a more Inquiry based classroom? What support structures are in place?
- If you were to implement Inquiry into the school, which age group should you start implementing the questioning techniques?
- How can Librarians and Classroom teachers work together to create an Inquiry atmosphere?
- I am currently teaching boys but will most likely teach all girls again, do I have to change my teaching style to suit girls? Or can I keep what I have learnt and use the same techniques?
- What are the steps you have to take to get a school IB accredited?
‘The important thing is not to stop questioning, curiosity has its own reason for existing’ – Albert Einstein
Miss Megan Elizabeth
Australian living in Johannesburg, Primary School Teacher, IT Teacher, World traveller
The Yogi of Inquiry Learning and Re-search