Sometime ago I viewed this Sharon Freisen’s talk (online ED talks) and I was convinced that she is right. Inquiry is not something you do but it should pervade school life. It is something ongoing and should be persuasive.
Her work is inspiring and pulls together much of what underpins the inquiry model of learning.
Freisen argues that to keep the spirit of inquiry alive teachers need to challenge themselves to think more deeply about what they are doing and provoke themselves to question so this will cultivate questioning in children. We have to have something worthy that will sustain inquiry so it is not trivialised.
Through the renaissance (da Vinchi etc) period when the microscope, telescope, printing press etc were invented, everything started by questioning. We are at that point in history again (new technologies). We can’t say we have done inquiry or we are doing inquiry. We have to go through a transformation shift as the end product of inquiry is the awakening of a new question.
The world is totally connected. We know that the reproduction and taking on knowledge has some merit but a more valid skill today is using information to produce things. So the type of work children need to be asked to do in schools is far deeper/questioned based as we want children to build on other people’s ideas (including the great thinkers of old) and build on their own ideas to ideally create new knowledge. Part of this is also to challenge established ideas and build new working theories.
So the types of things happening in classrooms should not be sitting to long lectures but coming to engage in deep and meaningful work. E.g archaeological study in their own community, looking at agents of chemical warfare, examining democracy around the world—e.g. is the international community democratic? Is democracy better than a benevolent dictatorship? (incl. children’s personal Interests/questions)
We need a thinking generation, people who can develop solutions to real problems. To ask questions of things that have gone before not just to recite them. The standards of work which we hold students accountable for needs to be higher than ever—not just a set of individual standards but also what a team may aspire to. We need to somehow create an intrinsic desire to aspire to greater things (builds character), not in a selfish way but with the desire to add to global well being.
The relationship of the teacher is complex—part mentor and guide and part director as well. Teachers need to design work that introduces students to environments that may never have been considered before. The role of the teacher is more complex and demanding than any time in history. The walls of the class room have to be metaphorically and in some ways literally broken down.