Sunday, 23 November 2014

The link in the chain. Jono Broom

Some of you may remember my previous blog post about the web of inquiry that I wrote almost a year ago now.
This is a follow up to that post. 

We have been using the structure of the web of inquiry in our classroom for the last 8 months and it has been working incredibly well. Learners have become settled and into the routine of the process and it seems to flow quite naturally for them. We have found though that something was missing, something quite crucial to engagement, and crucial to the learners having purpose in what they are doing. This is the story of how we implement the web of inquiry into our classroom, and a proposed 5th step added in. 

Experiment: As this is the first step, learners are exposed to different aspects of a topic. We found this imperative, especially for our students as they have a limited view on aspects of their world. Say for example our topic is Northland, New Zealand. Learners are exposed to different aspects of Northland: Tane Mahuta, The Treaty of Waitangi, Maui Dolphins, The hole in the rock, Cape Reinga, etc. Tasks are provided for the learners to do, to let them experiment and experience all different parts of Northland

Engage: Learners choose one section of the Northland inquiry that really speaks out to them, and that they would like to explore further. Say for example, a learner would like to inquire into Maui Dolphins. Learners then start to plan their own inquiry. They first need to answer 3 questions which will ensure we get good coverage for our big, “ungoogleable” question. 

“What do you already know about this topic?”
“What would you like to know about this topic?”
“Why do you want to know this/What could you do with this information?”

From these they write their own (teacher facilitated) big, ungooglable question; for example: 

In what ways can I improve my knowledge about how the Maui Dolphins are dying in order to attempt to save them from extinction?

This big question will lead into four smaller subsidiary questions which are considerably easier to answer, but if the student answers them all, they should have an answer to their big question. For example:

Where do the Maui Dolphins live? 
What kinds of things are impacting on the Maui Dolphins lives?
What is being done already to save the Maui Dolphins? 
Is there anything that needs to be done, or could be done to try and save the Maui Dolphins?

Explore: Once these questions have been created, an explore plan is completed with the learner, including where the student could go to find the information out, what kind of help the student might need to find the information, and a timeline of when the student will have different parts of the project completed. 

The learner can then independently research his or her questions, and can come to the teacher for advice or help as needed. 

Establish: This is the new stage, which I think is important for students to do to help them get some real purpose in their inquiry, and to make it really meaningful. They have found out how they can help the Maui Dolphins in their previous stage, but now it is important that they actually put that into action and establish a plan of what they are going to do. 

If they came to the conclusion that Maui Dolphins are being caught in fishing nets, and what is needed is education for fishermen about the Maui Dolphins then what are they going to do to help them? Are they going to make a video and put it on Youtube? Will this actually reach the audience they want to reach? Or would it be better to make a poster and put it into fishing shops? This stage is about taking action, and creating change in the world from their research. 

Explain: Explain is still our last stage of the inquiry. They need to explain what they have done, what they have changed, and what they have learnt. Can they link this project back to all areas of the curriculum? Can they link it back to how the inquiry challenged them and made them a better person? We workshop at this stage and back-map our curriculum. We also look at Guy Claxton’s learning muscles, and see how the inquiry has challenged, developed and changed them as a person. This may be where presentations come in, if the inquiry lends itself to that kind of explaining. 

Obviously this is how we implement inquiry into our own classroom and it will be quite different for others who are attempting it in different situations, but this model gives and overall framework for people to work around. 

This is all the learning we do. We run three different inquiries simultaneously that our students are constantly planning through and winding into one other. We let our students collaborate for some parts, and work independently for others. 

Our reading and writing comes into them all the way through, but specific teaching comes through our experiment stage. Our maths we could not integrate very easily, but has also come through the experimenting stage in the form of a maths workbook (which we just call a workbook to the students). This allows those who are interested in maths to look at the maths side of things when it comes to engaging. 

It has been a challenging 8 months, where not everything has gone according to plan and has been very stressful at times, but we have watched young men and women develop such amazing independence, awareness of themselves as learners, and skills which they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. 

Through the Establish stage, I would love to develop further a knowledge of just how much power they could have to change the world. 

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