“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
My adventure into Guided Inquiry Design began as all good adventures should, with a close friend and a road trip. It really started with desperation. The desperation led to the road trip….
A few years ago, our school district required a senior capstone known as Senior Project. I was struggling to help seniors find their way and develop their projects to the fullest. Of course, I took my struggles to my teacher-librarian Dana Wright. Since she had been essentially co-teaching the project with me, she was well aware of the issues I was facing. Dana and I have always been on the same page and look at teaching in much the same way, so it was no surprise the day I walked into the library with an exciting new idea only to find Dana waiting to share her exciting new idea. Both of our exciting new ideas were the same. Guided Inquiry.
Jonathan Alder Local Schools is small and is known for turning nothing into something because of our low expenditure per student. We are about 20 minutes northwest of Columbus, Ohio, in the small farming community of Plain City. When Dana stumbled across the information on the CiSSL Summer Institute. Our district agreed to send us, and the road trip began. Dana and I drove from Plain City to New Jersey for a new beginning.
Guided Inquiry was a natural fit for us. We saw immediately that we were rushing the research process. Our students were developing questions (Identify) and fast-forwarding to research (Gather) and fast-forwarding again to writing/presentation (Create/Share). We left no time for developing interests or exploring options. Once we adjusted to allow for a fully developed Guided Inquiry Design approach to Senior Project, so many of the struggles vanished. The depth and quality of student growth improved significantly. What we did not realize at the time was that Senior Project would soon be a memory. Another new beginning was coming.
Now we come to the current school year. This school year arrived with a new building principal and a new state mandate known as College Credit Plus. CC+ requires strict adherence to a state-wide set of standards for Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. Mike Aurin (our new leader), Ann (guidance), and I sat down to discuss the impact of the new requirements on Senior Project and our other curricula. To proceed with students’ best interests in mind, we needed to remove the Senior Project requirements from the English curriculum.
At first it was a shock. Senior Project was an institution. It’s what we did. That’s when I realized that it was no longer what we HAD to do. We no longer had to “[fight] the old.” We could now “[build] the new.”
English Department Chair
Jonathan Alder High School
Plain City, Ohio