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Defining Inquiry (again)

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Since my (re)defining inquiry assignment for Bath and article in IS-Mag, the importance of careful definition and action on inquiry has been on my mind.

Education continues to be a battleground between polar views on “what is best for the kids” and I find myself frustrated by the consistently (false) dichotomous nature of the arguments: traditional vs progressive, schooling vs making, teacher-led vs student-driven. We can have the best of each world by creating it.

We occupy a position of extreme educational privilege in the international school sector: with strong, evidence-based frameworks and quite a lot of freedom to choose what we teach and how. As we make our choices, we need to be informed, critical, creative thinkers in our own right. Make space in the curriculum for play, creativity, curiosity and action, and make sure that the foundations are solid.

As teachers we should follow the research and we should create it. We should be coaches, mentors, guides and activators of learning (beyond facilitators). We should be inquirers, seeking to know our impact as we branch out into new territories.

………o0O0o……….

Here’s my updated definition. It’s tidier than the last, less academic, and includes “creative”.

Inquiry is critical, creative, reflective thought built on a foundation of well-taught* knowledge, skills and concepts, that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?” 

It’s important here to define creativity as more than the reserves of the arts and certainly more than a perception of something generally fun. It balances creative expression, teaching and learning with innovation and problem-solving. Creativity could be a catch-all term for the higher-order thinking skills, that in themselves require the foundational concepts, skills and knowledge to be worthwhile. In an MYP context, creative thinking is necessary to reach those top bands. What does creative thinking bring to all the disciplines?

After all, everything is a remix ;>.

  • Which elements of the “traditional” do you see here? How about the “progressive”?
  • How would this look in a (traditionally) high-content course? How about the early years?
  • How does the student’s average day, week, unit, year feel with this in mind?
  • How can we use this to excite genuine, meaningful learning and avoid the fuzzy-buzz of pseudolearning?
  • How does this look across the IB continuum? How about the Trivium schools?
Defining Inquiry

Inquiry is critical, creative, reflective thought, built on foundation of well-taught* knowledge, skills and concepts that invites learners to take action on their learning and ask “what if…?”

……….o0O0o………….

Update: Oct 2017

*I’m using well-taught here almost – but not quite – interchangeably with well-learned; to recognise the critical role of the expert teacher in an inquiry environment. As learning becomes more student-owned the student needs to become TEMPERed and learn how to learn more effectively, the expert teacher needs to have their disciplinary world at their fingertips.

Author: Stephen

International Educator in Japan, via Indonesia & the UK. MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher, MYP Coordinator. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer. MA International Education.

6 thoughts on “Defining Inquiry (again)

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