When sitting down to consider what I would write for my blog posts this week, I realised that the topics I had chosen, all had one thing in common: an emphasis on “making it personal”. So for my first post, I’d like to reflect upon the importance of Third Space.
I believe that the concept of Third Space is so critical to the GI approach. How often do teachers hand out “generic” / whole class assignment tasks? How often is it a task that will elicit only a small range of “correct” responses? How often have the learner’s needs been factored into the construction of that task and valued more highly than the need to address curriculum content and requirements? I cringe when I think back on some of the tasks which I have set in the past: uninspiring, unoriginal and definitely working at the lower end of Mr Bloom’s taxonomy! Recognition of Third Space within a Guided Inquiry approach offers students something very appealing: the chance to find the intersection between what needs to be taught and their personal interests. For many, this opportunity is also a challenge. Particularly for those in the Middle and Senior years, so used to being given a mandated task with limited choice, students may sometimes baulk at this opportunity for choice. Sometimes ill-prepared for individual and innovative thinking, the chance to find their own avenue of interest may be difficult. To me, this is Guided Inquiry’s most necessary and crucial Zone of Intervention: helping the student to find that intersecting space.
Third Space In Action!
For the past three years, the Head of Inquiry Learning at St Paul’s (Des Hylton) and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with the Health and Physical Education Department on a Guided Inquiry unit for Year 10 students. This unit was developed initially after one of the Year 10 PE teachers had attended a Professional Development course which Des and I conducted at our school. The teacher had seen the value of a GI approach and could see clearly how it could be applied to a unit which they were about to teach. After many conversations, plenty of tweaking, lots of learning, plenty of “to-ing” and fro-ing”, and a healthy amount of trepidation, we were ready to give it a shot!
Entitled “Safe Choices”, the unit asks students to consider an Overarching Question: “In a world full of opportunities, how can we encourage adolescents to make safe choices?” Their responses were to be uploaded to youtube, hoping that an authentic audience would assist them to produce a work of which they would be proud, and one which could help adolescents and others, to make safer choices. Students were led through interesting Open, Immerse and Explore phases, and then invited to find that Third Space….. where did their personal interest lie? It was here that the team approach, so important to the success of a GI unit, was really helpful. With four teachers working with the group, talking to students, posing questions, probing and challenging, we eventually (for some this took quite a few lessons!) found that third space for each student. Some found it difficult to become the “asker” rather than the “answerer”; others found it difficult to find enthusiasm and focus; yet in some we saw a spark that was truly wonderful.
For one girl, in particular, this task offered her a chance to produce a work that was most definitely situated in the Third Space. Fuelled by personal interest and a strong desire for societal change, she chose to investigate the choices made by victims of domestic abuse. The choice of presentation mode also allowed her to work in her Third Space: her artistic ability was able to be employed as a tool to add effectiveness to her presentation. I believe her video is a wonderful testament to what can be achieved when students find that Third Space.