Reflections on Inquiry Based Learning

Monday, February 24, 2014

Most students in my class have finished or are  finishing up their Practice Inquiry Guide.

Reflections so far:

Great Discussions                                                                            

For the first project, I didn’t want to limit students in terms of the scope of their questions since it was just a practice attempt. One group chose to explore “How do vehicles affect our environment?”.  They decided to focus on air pollution. I teased them that they took the easy, most documented way to answer that question. They argued back that vehicle emissions have the most detrimental impact on the environment and that’s why they focused on air pollution. These back and forth discussions were great. We also had a learning resource teacher present for part of this discussion. The conversation moved from car culture to the impact of vehicle related runoff on agriculture, to automobile racing and green energy.


Great Learning

One group explored the question “Why do some countries/regions use Daylight Savings Time and others don’t? What are the benefits and drawbacks?”.  When I asked each individual group member why DST is used, each could clearly describe both benefits and drawbacks. They also discovered some interesting facts about DST- including some negative health impacts of DST, including increased heart attacks right after DST (potentially related to change in sleep patterns).


Too Much Conferencing    

When I designed the inquiry guide, I wanted to “overstructure” the process so I could test it out and then reduce the structure as needed. For my gifted geography class, I’m finding that conferencing 4 times is too much. I’m going to eliminate Step 4: Student Teacher Conference: Review Brainstorming and add elements of this to Step 2: Student Teacher Conference: Discuss Essential Question.


Further Develop Essential Questions  

One question in the Inquiry Guide asks “How can your teacher best support you in your next inquiry?”. One group suggested that I teach a lesson or help groups further develop their essential question to a more appropriate scope.  Next week I will do a lesson on brainstorming, developing essential questions, and limiting the scope of questions.


Focus on Questioning Techniques                                              

When conferencing with students, I use questions mainly from the learning guide and from my own understanding of the topic. Our discussions have been fantastic. However, I think that I  should look into questioning techniques to further draw out information about student understanding of their inquiries.


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