For complex instructional methods, challenges will always exist. The inquiry approach is an amazing way to integrate curriculums, teach 21st century learning skills, and develop our students’ critical thinking abilities. This approach does not exist without some challenges. However, these challenges should not dissuade anyone from trying it.
“How Can I Start to Plan for Inquiry?” – OESSTA
The first and most obvious challenge is time. The videos talk a lot about the process of creating a question and trying to incorporate cross-curricular activities to make it a complete inquiry project. I agree that it does take time to implement this type of approach in the classroom, especially to make it effective, interesting and worthwhile. I would also argue that if an educator plans properly, he/she could have a more effective use of classroom time.
Modeling is a key issue as identified by the educator (Pete) in the video. This aligns with the curriculum in that students must be assessed for readiness to learn. Modeling takes time, but ensuring that all students can complete the processes autonomously allows them to think critically instead on simply the acquisition of knowledge. I experienced this first hand when teaching math… students were scared to explore elements of geometry without me modeling the technique first. After modeling, they felt freer to explore and create connections between my techniques and something they created on their own.
Another challenge may exist for some educators. There needs to be a refocus from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning that focuses on inquiry and critical thinking. If a teacher is set in his/her teaching style, this may be a difficult barrier to overcome.
Schools themselves may also create barriers to inquiry-based learning. For example, some schools may lack the technology, finances, or space to really deeply explore a question the way a teacher wants to. This barrier is not impossible to overcome, but is definitely real and will create a hardship for an educator.
“What Might Teaching and Learning Look Like?” – OESSTA
One of the benefits of inquiry is the natural flexibility it allows. If educators use an inquiry-based approach, they can structure lessons to incorporate cross-curricular expectations and also developed a better UDL. Our presenter, Kristie, said that in a classroom if you can establish a trust, you are able to use inquiry-based approached that have UDL and hit every level in the classroom. Inquiry allows for multiple levels of assessment as well – there are variety in the ways students can submit assignments that suit the needs of the learner. Kristie also mentioned that inquiry is natural and current, allows children to feel safe when taking risks and fosters an environment of community learning.
I believe my unit plans will help me discover the benefits of inquiry I discussed above. The nature of inquiry seems to unite expectations around a central theme. I think what I will find in my unit plan is that the flow of the unit seems more natural and realistic because it is tied together through a topic and area of inquiry. I also believe that I will find the unit plans will be much more adaptable when inquiry-based. Zoe talked about having a student teacher that had a preplanned unit to deliver to her kids that was well below their level. With an inquiry-based approach, the same topic or question can be explored at various levels according to the readiness and potential of the learners.