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?
How did knowing that there was no paper to write affect how you felt about your research?
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.
Thanks for reading! –Susan Smith