Understanding the “Magic” in Inquiry

So for a wide variety of personal and professional reasons I have been absent from my blog.  The great gift of this absence was how much I missed it.  And that I discovered that what I really missed was the act of writing itself – the thinking, articulating, editing and rethinking of my own ideas, experiences and understandings.  I have so much I could share but, tonight I realized a wonderful intersection of my own feelings of missing blogging and the current emphasis on inquiry in student learning.  The personal gain and subsequent loss I felt starting my blog and abandoning it was the same motivation I believe that a truly inquiry-based approach can offer our students.  For too many years I myself focused on product and completion, both as a student and an educator, but the real key is the desire to discover, think about and synthesize ideas – that is the essence of my ownlearning.  If we can move towards this with our students and our larger learning communities then engagement and motivation should be the magic that follows.

For my own professional development and to support the new school that I am privileged to open this fall as the teacher librarian, I have a long list of summer reads.  The first was Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari.  This is by no means a review, although I really do suggest giving this book some of your time, but I  want to share of the “big ideas” or “key understandings” that resonated with me.  Truth be told I took 12 chicken-scratch pages of notes for my own reference as I take on the role of teacher librarian once again but, moreover I think the value in this text for me was the reinforcement of my own beliefs about student engagement and what we value as educators and as an education system.

So to avoid an even lengthier post than I am prone to here is my simplified list of my big ideas:

  • school libraries & librarians are important 🙂
  • ideally 3 adult members in the learning team
  • the concept of third space (the merger of personal knowledge & curricular knowledge) is KEY
  • prioritize questioning
  • forming an inquiry stance & inquiry community is essential
  • I (and yes I really do mean myself) must resist the urge to “solve” or “answer” when debate/dissent occurs
  • learners must learn to truly collaborate and converse
  • the atmosphere must be “comfortable yet challenging”
  • I must also resist the urge to introduce the “product” or “project” early on – the ideas, questions, immersion and exploration must take priority
  • learners must develop critical information literacy skills throughout the inquiry process and beyond – these are the skills they require for 21st century success
  • TIME is immensely important to the success of inquiry – time to think, reflect, question and share – along with the flexibility to understand that not all students will be at the same phase at the same time
  • assessment and data collection is ongoing but also a huge part of closing an inquiry (from my own experience I can say that many misconceptions in the teaching world assume assessment is ignored in an inquiry-based classroom)
  • inquiry does not end – one inquiry leads into another – the connections are everywhere if we foster them

As I said above, I really could go on forever and I have not even touched on the very practical tools, strategies and samples contained in the book.  What struct me as magical was the connection I felt to the learners described in the book – their excitement, engagement and desire to communicate.   The feelings and thoughts my own “inquiry” into this text and others over the summer are creating compelled me to take action. My first instinct was to message some friends in the profession and ask them to chat about the book (creating my own inquiry circle) and then to sit down and blog (composing and sharing my ideas). This is the experience we must value for our students – personal interest connecting to academic knowledge and developing the skills and strategies necessary to not only process information but also develop their own perspectives and thinking.

2 thoughts on “Understanding the “Magic” in Inquiry

  1. As coauthor of Guided Inquiry Design, I’m thrilled to read you post, hear of your take always, see you enacting a plan and feel your excitement for the possibilities! It’s been such a joy to do professional development with these books to help educators learn more deeply as they design units together. Come join me on Twitter, join our community and keep me posted on your journey! Thank you for blogging about your journey- we all grow stronger from learning together! 🙂

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