Monday, March 2, 2015

What I'm thinking in February...

My thinking around curricular inquiries, essential questions, and how to research is constantly evolving. Just when I think I know what I believe,  I read or see something else that pushes my thinking. Then, I feel like I'm back at square one. Although this journey is exhausting, at least I'm creating a definition of inquiry that works for me. It's all about trial and error.

A few weeks ago, when I was planning our study of our nation and state's government systems I felt pressured by time, tests, etc., and I knew I couldn't commit to a large inquiry unit. Even my last mini inquiry study didn't seem so mini. But in the back of my head, I also had a quote that many of our students refer to often by Benjamin Franklin. "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." So, I decided that students could investigate one of the branches of the government, become an expert, and teach others about it. I figured it was at least better than direct instruction from me. Therefore, with the big question of how does Colorado's government impact life in Colorado, students are divided into three groups and have been scouring articles and the internet in order to add to their schema about one branch of government. 

With that being said, I wish I could go back in time and start again. Just this week, I went back and reviewed the chapter around curricular inquiries, and I was struck by the section titled What Content is Best Suited to Small Group Inquiries on page 166 & 167. As I read the bulleted list, I realized that the current work I'm doing didn't match any of the criteria. Now, I wasn't calling our investigating an inquiry unit, but it still didn't sit well with me. After thinking about it for quite a while I realized I could have posed this work in a different way that might have engaged students more, helped strengthen the relationship to the outside world, and allowed for interpretation and debate.

So, now I'm thinking when I am planning I want to create questions that students will relate to. In attempting to answer these bigger questions students will naturally build their schema around the content in the standards.  This doesn't come naturally to me, and it takes me a long time to wrap my mind around them, but I know the payoff will be worth it. In creating bigger questions to ponder I know my our content will immediately meet more of the criteria that makes content good for inquiry. I realize questions are critical in inquiry, and I always have at least one essential question. Although, that question isn't guiding our thinking. They usually aren't intriguing or motivating, so I just want to spend some time revising those questions. There is definitely room for improvement.

What questions have you used to guide your curricular inquiries?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jamie,
    Thank you for your post. I am inspired by your willingness to learn, jump in, reflect and try again. As I reflect on my inquiries this year, I realize the power and failures of each. With my Word Ending inquiry, I gave my students their question, "How do word endings affect words?" They loved creating more and more questions, "Why does the -ing knock off the e at the end of a word?" "What is a suffix?", etc. But when we did our Denver History inquiry, I gave them, "How did the people, places and events of Denver's' past influence (or affect or contribute to) Denver today?" and moved too quickly for them to create their own meaningful question. SO, the Denver Inquiry became a report on facts about a person, place or event in Denver. It was a little flat. I think after reading your post and reflecting on my own experiences this year, I want to spend a lot more time on great questions...questions we care about that will inspire rigorous and meaningful inquiry and synergistic collaboration.
    Thank you for always leading me to deeper thinking!