My response is based around my Primary Inquiry Question:
How do you make a Maths and IT lesson more inquiry based and how do we promote students self-efficacy in these departments?
Rationale behind my question
For the last few years of classroom teaching I have found myself in a negative spiral about teaching Maths. I love teaching Literacy, SOSE and Health, but I really struggle to teach Maths, mainly because I feel I teach it in a boring manner compared to the other subjects. Obviously there are many Mathematical concepts that do need to be taught in a prescriptive way, but I know that Maths definitely does not have to be taught in any less of an exciting way than any other subject. There is proof of this, as the Maths specialist at my school teaches in my class once a week and has the most amazing ideas. I believe that by incorporating IT and teaching Maths in a more inquiry based approach will help conquer this thought and help me in the future. From Term 3 (September) I will be teaching IT in Grades 3-8 boys in Johannesburg. This is a short term contract but I took on this role to build on my knowledge of Information Technology so it will benefit me greatly in the following terms back in the classroom.
As a student in my school years, I had a negative experience of Maths. We were taught straight out of a textbook and many of the Maths teachers I had made comments like 'how do you not know that', 'I taught that yesterday? Have you already forgotten?' and because of this, it trampled all my confidence and made me believe I am 'bad' at Maths. This is why I wanted to not only find out how to teach Maths and IT from a more inquiry based approach, but find out how to build children's self-efficacy in subjects such as Maths because it is by far one of the most difficult concepts for many students to grasp and from an early age, become negative about the subject. This can all be changed by the way we are teaching Maths - through an Inquiry Method.
Technology & Inquiry
A good relationship exists between technology and inquiry based learning and each one compliments one another if they are used appropriately and effectively. Abdelraheem & Asan (2006) discuss that Inquiry-based learning is not a new approach in teaching but is not as widely used as it could be and they believe one way to overcome this issue is to start Inquiry Based Learning from Kindergarten so that children can learn the necessary skills to help them being Inquirers of the world and to question and think deeply about topics. Research conducted by (Looi, 1998) found that inquiry-based learning enhances students’ learning achievement, especially in the aspects of problem solving skills, ability to explain data, critical thinking, and understanding of concepts. He further reiterates that students can document these achievements through technology by exploring the concepts further and investigating their topic on a deeper level rather than through textbooks or a few websites given by the teacher. Looi's (1998) positive studies between technology and inquiry learning are supported by Jonassen, Peck & Wilson (1999) who are advocates for technology, link the value of technology to teaching approaches that are inquiry-based, constructivist, project- based, or student centered and believe these approaches view knowledge as something individuals construct for themselves through action, reflection, and discussion; not as something that can be simply transmitted from teachers or books to students. Technology can be used to promote collaborative learning, in group projects and new approaches to working, learning, and interacting, which is why it goes hand in hand with inquiry learning (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994).
Like all things in education, there are some downfalls and disadvantages to technology. Kuhlthau (2010) outlines many positives of technology to enhance inquiry learning such as: Allowing rural students to access the cosmopolitan places of the world, Web 2.0 gives us tools to help us interact, connect and collaborate in new ways and it enables everyone to have a voice to express their views and opinions. However, in saying this, there are potential dangers that come with all these wonderful advantages such as privacy breaches through domains such as Facebook and by allowing children to connect to strangers around the world on video games and chat rooms opens up the ugly world of children becoming potential victims of heinous crimes (Juniu, 2006). Not only are there dangers from the outside world that teachers need to be careful of pr, there is also a danger that teachers often fall into the trap themselves. This issue has been outlined by (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) who make mention that often teachers are using technology for the sake of implementing it into their lesson and not for the benefit of the student which can end up having a negative effect on a student's ability to search efficiently for information, leading them on a very slippery slope in their futures. Kuhlthau (2010) is in agreement with this statement and mentions 'we need to move beyond teaching how to use technology tools to teaching technology in use for creativity and meaning' (p. 2). By teaching educators HOW to use technology in a creative and meaningful way, this will help elevate this potential problem. We also need to let children investigate technology and give them the tools necessary to equip them with the attributes and resources to aide them in becoming deeper thinkers and more effective inquirers.
Maths Inquiry & Self-Efficacy
One of the most disheartening things I see in my classroom is when children don't understand a mathematical concept and they become upset, despondent and end up hating Maths. Linker (2014) believes this is a serious problem as children's creativity is being stomped on due to the way certain subjects are being taught. He continues to mention that 'creativity defines our ability to be successful in the workplace, and is the only factor to differentiate ourselves from robots. How can we solve world problems? How can we keep up with the constant changes? Creativity wins. So right now, our children are losing'. Instead of rising to meet the challenges of the day, our school systems are busy “teaching to the test.” Instead of “No Child Left Behind”, they are all being left behind and are ill-prepared to succeed in the new era of business…and life.
Jo Boeler (2015) spent a lot of time investigating this problem and conducted a search which proved that by changing the approach of Maths teaching to an inquiry method, it not only achieves better results but promotes better self-efficacy in students in regards to learning Mathematics. Throughout her investigation she discovered 'there is no such thing as a Maths brain and unfortunately, many parents, teachers and students believe this myth and it holds them up every day in their math learning'. Her study involved 81 students who took part in a pre-test involving algebra and for 18 days, Jo Boeler taught them in a different way to how they were being taught in class. The instructional program focused on mindset messages, was full of inquiry-based, low-floor/high-ceiling tasks, was visual and used mixed achievement groups. At the end of 18 days, when Boaler gave them another test they had improved on average by 50 percent.“They improved because they changed their beliefs that they were not a math person to believing they were a math person,” Boaler (2015) said. After the course, students said they looked forward to math and saw math as a creative subject.
Further to Jo Boaler's investigation, she had a look at PISA results from a variety of different countries and noticed that the 'attitudes & beliefs' section of the PISA shows that students who learn maths by memorisation are the lowest achievers in the world, compared to the highest achievers being the ones who think about big ideas and make connections. Dewey (1997) agrees that inquiry learning has the potential to generate excitement, curiosity and a deep commitment to learning yet teachers can be reluctant to give up the control of the lesson to the children as they feel they have a duty do 'teach' specific formulas and techniques otherwise they may fail. Boaler (2015) can support this notion of self-conscious thinking by pointing out that "a big problem is that math teachers themselves are math-traumatised. They came through a system very similar to the one in which they work. Primary school teachers in particular often feel insecure about math".
This article, which I have included in my Curation, provides an exceptional example of how teaching Maths in a different way to traditional approaches, has a positive effect on both academics and self-efficacy on children. Students base their opinion on if they are 'good or bad' at Maths on a mark they receive on a test and often forget that Maths is all about inquiring, investigating and solving problems. Therefore, by building up students self-efficacy through inquiry based maths teaching, it enables students to become more confident and start to enjoy what Maths has to offer rather than thinking it is all about a number on a page. Children also need to be exposed to the possibility of investigation and problem solving in the world of mathematics and by using tools such as technology, it can help them become familiar and comfortable with the concepts by learning through collaboration, fun, excitement and questioning the world around them.
Abdelraheem, A., & Asan, A. (2006). The Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based Technology Enhanced Collaborative Learning Environment. International Journey of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 2(2), 65-87
Boaler, J. (2015). Not a Math person: How to remove obstacles to learning Math. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/11/30/not-a-math-person-how-to-remove-obstacles-to-learning-math/
Dewey, J. (1997). How we think. USA: Dover Publications
Jonassen, D., Peck, K., & Wilson, B. (1998). Learning with Technology: A constructivist Perspective. New Jersey: Pearson
Juniu, S. (2006). Use of Technology for Constructivist Learning in a Performance Assessment Class. Measurement in physical education and exercise science, 10(1), 67-78
Kuhlthau, C. (2007). Guided inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://wp.comminfo.rutgers.edu/ckuhlthau2/wp-content/uploads/sites/185/2016/02/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf
Linkner, J. (2014). How kids lose their creativity as they age and how to prevent it. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshlinkner/2014/10/16/how-kids-lose-their-creativity-as-they-age-and-how-to-prevent-it/#762cd6b916c6
Looi, C. (1998). Interactive Learning Envirnments for Promoting Inquiry Learning. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 27(1), 3-22.
PISA: OECD. Program for International Student Assessment: PISA 2012 Results in Focus. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-overview.pdf
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-118). New York: Cambridge University Press.
The Yogi of Inquiry Learning and Re-search