I did my first guided inquiry project this fall with two of my freshman ELA classes. The general topic was on civil rights–connecting the movement of the 1960s to the civil rights climate in society today. Partly due to it being my first GID project, we did not assign a final paper, project, or presentation based on the research, which on the one hand seemed to make things a little easier on me, and on the other hand felt a bit like cheating. My students were confused, too. Although we had a good vision for the project, a lot of it was planned as we went along since I was also learning as we went along, and we never planned a final product assignment. My teacher librarian helped me understand that with GID, that was an acceptable option.
I have always claimed to be someone who appreciated the journey more than the destination and the process more than the product, but it seems different when you are responsible for teaching, although it shouldn’t. One of the things I discovered during this guided inquiry is that I like to see what my students “got.” “What did they get out of it? Did they get something? What did they get?” I am curious. I want to know. I want to see it, even if I don’t always want to grade it.
At the end of the project, I had no regrets about not having assigned a traditional paper or presentation, except for the fact that I didn’t feel like I saw enough of what they got. On the other hand, I didn’t exactly put a lot of time into reading their research notecards, either! We did ask the students to complete a final reflection in writing. It’s just that for me, there wasn’t enough about what they learned, content-wise, in their reflections.
That being said, I am definitely satisfied enough to do this project again in a similar way. I am looking forward to working with our teacher librarian, Anita Cellucci, again because I know that her guidance will help me evaluate, adjust, and fine-tune the process. I am also hoping to come across some other good ideas for guided inquiry projects. I am planning to read Leslie’s high school edition of Guided Inquiry Design in Action to help inspire me.
Meanwhile, here are some of the noteworthy reflections from the students who were the founding participants of our civil rights GID project.
How did what you found in your research help you understand what is going on today?
- It made me realize that although we believe that segregation and inequality are no longer an issue, it still appears in many ways. Seeing the similarities in many of the deaths and protests that occur now, and that did occur in the past demonstrates that the United State’s hasn’t evolved as much as we thought.
- I found a lot of information about the current rights for LGBT members. It made me think about how blacks, women, minorities used to be discriminated against and now the world is trying to create equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgendered people.
- I researched in the areas of black power in the time of the 1960’s and I have studied how that movement has shifted into the U.S. today in the form of #BlackLivesMatter. The use of technology allows protesters today to spread their powerful words for equality.
How did knowing that there was no paper to write affect how you felt about your research?
- It helped me focus more on the research and instead of thinking about making paragraphs it helped me focus more on the overall understanding of the inquiry project, and answering the topic question. Knowing that there was no paper to write helped me focus on understanding the main idea.
- It made me a little less stressed and allowed me to look at a more general view of the topic as well as allowed me to develop a lot more ideas and opinions about the topic rather than just focusing on one.
- Well, instead of really directing my research to a certain topic and narrowing down the different branches of civil rights, I kept my research broad and I was able to learn a lot more than I would have if there was a paper at the end.
Describe how you felt about working on this inquiry project a) when you first started, b) as you were gathering information and c) as you discussed your research with your classmates.
- When I first started this inquiry project I was a bit confused, I didn’t really fully understand the question. While I was gathering information I was a bit frustrated because at first I didn’t know if there was a final product or not but as soon as I learned that there wasn’t, the researching became a lot easier. At the end of the project, I felt that I had learned quite a bit about civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement and I felt that I had done a good job with the research.
- While discussing my research with my classmates, I realized that I had very much enjoyed completing so much research on different components of the large topic of civil rights. I have gained so much more knowledge surrounding the topic and can say that overall I liked and appreciated this inquiry project.
- As I discussed my research with my classmates, it helped a lot because I got to hear what other people did with the project, and sharing my ideas and having Mrs. Cellucci ask me questions about what I found helped my understanding of what I found a little better.
Thanks for reading! –Susan Smith