If you’ve read my other posts, you can probably guess which direction I’m going with this one. It’s the direction I’m always trying to go- towards student engagement (that’s what e is for, in case it isn’t obvious).
In my experience, students can learn pretty much anything they WANT to learn. My job is nothing more than finding connections between what I need to teach them and what they want to learn, and that’s exactly what I was able to do with Guided Inquiry. Were they able to “conduct research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the topic?” Absolutely- a question THEY asked, a topic THEY chose. Could they gather relevant information from multiple sources? (These questions are straight from our objectives, by the way.) Definitely- information that was relevant to THEM, from sources THEY found.
Anyway, I think you get the idea. This, my first Guided Inquiry unit, was the most student-centered unit I’ve ever taught. I want to share this quote from Ignacio Estrada, director for grants administration at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation:
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach they way they learn.”
As teachers, we call this differentiation. Now you’re probably like, “But wait! I thought you were writing about engagement!” But I think this conversation calls for an examination of the relationship between those two things. When we, as teachers, effectively differentiate- when we meet a student EXACTLY where they are and give them EXACTLY what they need- that’s when we’ll get the level of engagement that teachers dream about. When we let students choose, we lead them away from us and toward autonomy as readers, writers, thinkers, and most importantly, people.
Do our students know or care about our efforts to differentiate? No. They only know that the proverbial ball has been put into their court. They only care that we’ve essentially asked them, “What do YOU want to learn?” Thank you, Guided Inquiry, Leslie, and everyone I’ve collaborated with, for showing me how to ask my students that question in an environment and situation where they feel safe, supported, and successful. It’s my personal mission to keep asking that question as long as I am lucky enough to have a classroom and students.
I can’t tell you what a privilege it’s been sharing our unit and my experiences. I’ve also loved reading the posts before me and can’t wait to see what other great things my fellow Guided Inquiry Design practitioners are doing for their students.
Until We “Meet” Again,