For this year, my professional growth plans are looking a little different. This is in part due to my new position in high-school redesign pod project, but also because I'm feeling that there is something greater going on behind project-based learning that keeps popping up around every corner. Our BIG question for this year in St. Mark's College (our pod) is....
"How can an inquiry-based approach to teaching promote student passion and authenticity in learning?"
In the past, I've used a project-based approach to build engagement and authenticity, but more and more I am convinced that it is PASSION that drives every little thing we do on this planet (and conversely, a lack of passion too). If I want to effect change in my classroom, and hopefully the communities/world we are apart of, we have to tap into the deep-rooted interests students have and allow those to find our authentic, real-world problems for student to work on. I think using an inquiry-based approach to teaching will naturally lead into project-based learning (which I love. There are some SERIOUSLY awesome things coming this year!).
In my experience, there are so many approaches to project-based learning it is hard for one to know exactly 'what' it is. But isn't that the cool thing? It can be SO many different things! One piece that is vital, however, is that the problem students are working to solve is REAL and/or has real world applications. Inquiry-based learning also uses this rich, messy, grey area of real world problems to drive students to be curious about a topic. But in inquiry based learning the focus is not completely on the 'product' or 'project' students are working on, but the questions they are finding/asking/seeking as they work through something. DEEP and MEANINGFUL learning happens here. At the question a student asks when they reach a new conclusion or learn something new. I guess this naturally happens as a by-product of project-based learning, but because I keep finding myself at inquiry's doorstep, I'm going to focus on that as my professional project this year.
What I will be focusing on in the next month (October) for an inquiry-based approach:
- QUESTIONS: not just yes/no, but those firecrackers that get your class buzzing. Also, a good question beckons for more questions to be asked. ex. "What is the best type of power?"
- CURIOSITY: what don't we know? what else is there to this story? Who's perspective is missing?
- ASSESSMENT: varied, student driven, and real world. Using self feedback and reflection as well as conversations with students.
Mrs. Katherine (Kate) Weber