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Inquiry Based Learning in the Junior Classroom

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Jenni Guy

on 28 June 2014

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Transcript of Inquiry Based Learning in the Junior Classroom

Inquiry Based Learning in the Junior Classroom
"Inquiry-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that places students’ questions, ideas and observations at the centre of the learning experience. Educators play an active role throughout the process by establishing a culture where ideas are respectfully challenged, tested, redefined and viewed as improvable, moving children from a position of wondering to a position of enacted understanding and further questioning (Scardamalia, 2002, referenced in Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2013). Underlying this approach is the idea that both educators and students share responsibility for learning." (Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2013)
Guiding Question #1
How can inquiry based learning contribute to improved student engagement in the junior classroom?
Guiding Question #2
Which elements of the inquiry-based Full Day Kindergarten program lend themselves to adaptation for the junior classroom?
Guiding Question #3
How has inquiry based learning been used in the past and how has this informed current curriculum development?
Guiding Question #4
How can inquiry based learning contribute to meaningful cross-curricular integration in junior classrooms?
400 BCE - Socrates
knowledge through questioning
– Ushered in a reform of the North American education system - advocating a child-centred focus and real-world experiences

1910 – Dewey recommends inquiry be part of science curriculum – inquiry through use of the Scientific Method (Dewey, 1910)

1938 – Dewey published
Experience and Education
, in which he states: “Problems to be studied must be related to students’ experiences and within their intellectual capability; therefore, the students are to be active learners in their searching for answers” (quoted in Barrow, 2006, p. 266).
1910 - 1940s - John A. Dewey
Video showing steps, terms, examples of Scientific Method
- Russia’s awe-inspiring launch of Sputnik inspired a greater awareness of science education, which lead to further science curriculum development.

- Focus was now on science through individual skills: observing, classifying, inferring, controlling variables, etc (Barrow, 2006)
1950s – Launch of Sputnik
Barrow, L.H. (2006). A brief history of inquiry: From Dewey to standards
. Journal of Science Teacher
Education, 17
, 265-278. Retrieved from: http://link.springer.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/article/10.1007/s10972-006-9008-5/fulltext.html

Dewey, J. (1910). Science as subject-matter and as method,
Science, 31
, 121-127.

Making Thinking and Learning Visible Through Inquiry [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (2013).
Inquiry Based Learning
. Retrieved from

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013a).
Learning For All
. Queen's Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013b).
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 to 8: Social Studies
. Queen's
Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010a).
The Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program
, (Draft
Version) Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary kindergarten_english_june3.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010b).
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 to 8: Health and Physical
, Interim Edition. Queen's Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2009).
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1 to 8: The Arts
. Queen's Printer
for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2006).
A guide to effective literacy instruction: Grades
(Vol. 3: Planning and classroom management). Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2003).
The Report of the Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario.
Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/reports/reading/glossary.html

Postman, N & Weingartner, C. (1969).
Teaching as a Subversive Activity
. New York, NY : Delacorte Press.
PDF Retrieved from: http://pdf.thepdfportal.com/PDFFiles/97172.pdf
1956 - Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Classification of educational objectives; presents a cognitive hierarchy: “with knowledge and memory as the entry point, followed progressively by comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003).
1968 - Hall-Dennis Report
Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario
commissioned by the Ontario Minister of Education

- “The fixed positions of pupil and teacher, the insistence on silence, and the punitive approach must give way to a more relaxed teacher-pupil relationship which will encourage discussion, inquiry, and experimentation, and enhance the dignity of the individual,” (The truth shall make you free).
1969 - Postman and Weingartner write Teaching as a Subversive Activity
Characteristics common to all good learners:
- self-confidence in learning ability
- enjoy problem solving
- keen sense of relevance
- reliance on own judgment (vs. others or society)
- not afraid to fail
- delay judgment until they have sufficient information
- flexibility in point of view
- respect for facts, and the ability to distinguish between fact and opinion
- no need for final answers to all questions

Role of an inquiry teacher:
- communication through questioning, especially by asking “divergent questions”
- do not accept short, simple answers
- encourage interaction between students, and avoid judgment of interactions
- do not summarize discussion to avoid bringing closure to ideas
- do not plan exact direction of lessons; allow them to develop in response to students’ interests
- pose problems to their students
- gauge success on criteria of “good learners”
– changes in behavior and inquiry
- Learning occurs as a result of experience
1980s – Constructivism
and Jean Piaget

2010 – Full-Day Kindergarten in Ontario Schools
From the draft Full Day Kindergarten Curriculum (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010a):

- Play and inquiry are the foundation of early learning in Ontario schools

- “The learning activities are designed by the Early Learning-Kindergarten team to encourage the children to think creatively, to explore and investigate, to solve problems and engage in the inquiry process, and to share their learning with others” (p.13)

- “Children have an innate sense of wonder and awe and a natural desire for inquiry” (p. 14).

Elements of the inquiry process are:
- Initial Engagement
- Exploration
- Investigation
- Communication (p. 15)

- “Children grasp ideas more easily and more effectively and maintain their interest in school when they have an educational program that enables them to connect their learning to their own lives and the world around them” (p.16).
Inquiry-based learning can be implemented into teaching practice as a means of addressing the challenge of education today; this challenge is to engage “students in learning so that they develop the skills and knowledge they need to function in today’s world” (Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2013, p. 1).
When students have an opportunity to present a question or problem that they would like to investigate, they are more engaged and will have a vested interest in pursuing the “answer” to their question. “Greater student involvement in their own learning and learning choices leads to greater student engagement and improved achievement” (Ontario Ministry Of Education, 2013a, p. 33). What better way to have students involved in their own learning than by having them think about what they are interested in discovering, suggest ideas and then investigate the “answers” to their questions.
Greater Student Involvement
Teacher as Provocateur
Teachers “play the role of 'provocateur,' finding creative ways to introduce students to ideas and to subject matter that is of interest to them and offers 'inquiry potential' or promise in terms of opportunities for students to engage in sustained inquiry of their own. Further, while individual and small groups of students might choose to take a different approach to a particular overarching question in the classroom, it is the teacher who establishes a classroom culture in which ideas triumph as ‘central currency’ and class members come together on a regular basis to discuss each other’s learning. Through hearing others’ perspectives, students come to a better understanding of their own ideas and approaches to questions and problems” (Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2013, p. 2).
An inquiry-based approach can be an excellent way to integrate the curriculum. For example, by focusing on a “big idea”, questions generated by students will often provide an opportunity to integrate different curricula in a learning cycle.
Big Ideas
Example: Grade Four Social Studies
Students will "develop their understandings of how we study the past, as they use various methods to examine social organization, daily life, and the relationship with the environment in different societies that existed between 3000 BCE and 1500 CE” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013b, p. 95).
As students develop this understanding by looking at Medieval Times, a good focusing question could be, “How has our life today been influenced by medieval society?” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 36).
As students brainstorm what they already know about medieval society and how this has affected our lives today, the teacher asks them what questions they have about Medieval society and what they want to learn more about. This focusing question provides ample opportunity to incorporate expectations of the grade four science curriculum, specifically pulleys and gears, as well as the four strands of the Language curriculum. The Arts curriculum could be tied in as well.
The teacher introduces the unit or learning cycle by challenging the students. He/She is guiding the process.
Students share their learning with each other.
Practically, some questions that are posed by the students could be put up on the classroom wall and as the Learning Cycle unfolds, the class revisits those Inquiry questions and answers/reflects on them. The students will be learning about medieval society through whole class readings and assignments. Individual projects could be driven by each student’s specific inquiry or question. As each student presents findings from an individual project to the whole class, everyone learns more.
The Full-Day Early Learning - Kindergarten Program (Draft, 2010a)
"Children have an innate sense of wonder and awe and a natural desire for inquiry. The Full-Day Early Learning - Kindergarten Program capitalizes on children's natural curiosity and their desire to make sense of their environment."
FDK Inquiry Focus
Possibilities for Junior Classrooms
Kindergarten educator teams are re-thinking theme-based planning and moving to inquiry.
Replace Nouns with Verbs
FDK Inquiry Focus
Possibilities for Junior Classrooms
"We are studying plants"
"We are studying growing"
"We are studying Dance"
"We are expressing ourselves through Dance"
From: We are studying winter.
To: We are wondering why there are different types of snow.
Junior teachers could re-think discreet units of study and move to inquiry.
From: We are studying human body systems.
To: We are wondering why people get sick.
Choosing an Inquiry Focus
FDK Inquiry Focus
Are other children joining into the play and is it something that we could take to a deeper level?
Possibilities for Junior Classrooms
What are students reading and writing about? What do students talk to each other about?
Are there opportunities for curriculum connections?
Advancing the Learning
FDK Inquiry Focus
Possibilities for Junior Classrooms
Inquiry webs are created with students to show ways that the inquiry could go, but these are not topics which need to be checked off.
Curriculum expectations are clustered according to "Big Ideas" and students' curiosity determines where the learning will go. Units are not created in order to cover every specific expectation in a given curriculum.
Assessment and Evaluation
FDK Inquiry Focus
Possibilities for Junior Classrooms
"Not all students are involved in the inquiry at all times. They weave in and out of it. We don’t expect them to all produce the same work."
(Making Thinking and Learning Visible Through Inquiry)
Differentiated instruction allows for student choice of product. Students are working within their own zones of proximal development.
An All-Jennifer-All-the-Time Production
Jennifer Loopstra
Jennifer Vanderburgt
Jennifer Guy
June, 2014
“Inquiry is at the heart of learning in all subject areas.” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010b, p. 60)
“Teaching approaches…include approaches based on constructivist learning theory, which argues that humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences... Such experiences include learning through inquiry…” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2009, p.37)
“…research has provided evidence of the benefits of experiential learning and constructivist teaching, which emphasize the role of the teacher as co-learner and facilitator, promote authentic experiential learning and learning through inquiry, provide engagement through student-initiated work, create a sense of community through teamwork and collaboration, and provide options to accommodate different learning styles and intelligences,” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010b, p. 41)
“As [students] advance through the grades, they acquire the skills to locate relevant information from a variety of sources, such as books, newspapers, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, interviews, videos and the Internet. The questioning they practiced in the early grades becomes more sophisticated as they learn that all sources of information have a particular point of view and that the recipient of the information has a responsibility to evaluate it, determine its validity and relevance, and use it in appropriate ways.” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006, p. 29)
Full transcript