Friday, September 26, 2008

Myths of Inqury Based Classrooms

Students, as a part of an intensive bird study, undertake detailed observational study based on a 'stuffed' pheasant.

Canadian educator Sharon Friesen outlines myths of inquiry based classrooms in Canada in her video presentation.

Her ideas about how 'knowledge is created' are worth sharing.

1 Some teachers see no place for the teacher.This results in a lack of engagement by teachers and can be seen as a form of abdication. I can't see this as a problem in New Zealand where teachers, all too often, have been encouraged to apply intrusive 'best practices' teaching. Thankfully it is mostly restricted to literacy and numeracy teaching.

2 Teachers who do not learn alongside their students do not give their students timely feedback. Once again not such a problem in New Zealand where teachers over 'coaching' all too often results in quality work lacking in any individuality or real creativity!

3 Teachers do not act on student misconceptions. In new Zealand this would not apply in the literacy and numeracy programmes but applies in the, all too often, 'lightweight' content studies students undertake.

4 Teacher act as just facilitators. This role is not enough to ensure deep understanding in content areas. Teachers need to act as guides, coaches, advisers, co-learners, mentors, co- inquirers.

5 Teachers who feel they don't have to have in depth knowledge themselves as inquiry is about 'how to learn' not content. Teachers need to know both process and knowledge if their students are to develop in depth understandings. This is an issue in many New Zealand classrooms in content areas as science and social studies.

6 Students can learn by themselves. This myth is an abdication of teacher responsibility and is a form of abandonment.It is akin to handing the asylum over to the inmates. Hardly an issue in New Zealand literacy and numeracy programmes.

7 Teachers believe all student's answers are equally valid. This is obviously not so and teachers need to challenge and expand students ideas and theories. Once again this only applies in New Zealand to 'shallow' content studies.

Freisen is writing about Canadian teachers and from a position that develop a spirit of inquiry is central to all learning. Students need to be helped to create, through inquiry, their own knowledge so as to develop in depth understandings.

Inquiry teaching needs to be cultivated if we are to develop students able to thrive a unpredictable, but potentially exciting, 21stC.


Anonymous said...

I take your point that it is all a matter of emphasis. The past decade, or so, has seen the emphasis placed on the 'targeting' of the two 'Rs' to the detriment of developing inquiry learning dispositions and the valuing of creativity. We need to correct the balance.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I am not against numeracy - all students need basic competence and enjoyment of maths, as they do in reading, but they also need to see them as a means to 'dig deeply' to interpret their content inquiry learning experiences. It is , as you say, all about balance.