Monday, 9 December 2013

What does it mean "to inquire"?

Session Five: Posted by Joy

This week's session was, once again, fun and engaging for the kids. As we approached our Think Tank day, I heard comments such as: "I can't wait for Think Tank!"; "What bin are you going to do?", "Do you want to work with me?" We have the kids where we want them to be: keen to engage and play in the Think Tank while being open to exploring the idea that we have Habits of Mind, or thinking dispositions, we can access and develop. I am thrilled we have the opportunity to guide our students towards being more open-minded and adventurous with their thinking, as Knodt (2008) suggested: "just like other patterns of human behaviour, thinking dispositions can be encouraged and guided, can be employed by individuals more consciously, and can also become nearly automatic. They can be taught".

As we cycle through our own phases of inquiry, our focus has expanded. Personally, I am now seeing
the Think Tank as just one more place I can facilitate learning about the thinking dispositions. For example, last week's opening circle revealed to use there were many misconceptions about what inquiry actually meant. What came out of our realization is that we need more time than the opening circle allows to engage in thinking lessons.  We have therefore added another session during the week, called the "Thinking Lesson" (cool, huh?) We are looking at our Thinking Lesson as an extension of our Think Tank... And there it is....Think Tank has moved out of the Tank! We knew it would, but we weren't sure what that would look like!

 In the Thinking Lesson in my class, we explored the concept of inquiry once again. We viewed a few YouTube movies, discussed the inquiry we do in class and talked about inquiries that we have done in "the real world". We then compared those inquires to the stages around this inquiry star (see left).

On sticky notes, we captured key words.

We brainstormed occasions in which we conducted inquiry. 


After building up our background knowledge, we went to the Think Tank for our fifth session. The goal was to notice how we cycled through the stages of inquiry (while having fun in the bins of course....discovering new things, uncovering new interests, making new connections). I was hoping the kids could see and understand they were indeed engaged in inquiry (at the very least that they started with being curious and wondering about something and that they engaged in some kind of investigation).

Result: They did! Our reflection circle discussion indicated the kids were starting to grasp the idea. We have an emerging understanding of the process of inquiry!
Here are a few writing samples:

We are also using this writing framework for our reflections: What? So What? What's the Connection? and Now What? More on that later, but has already raised the level of expression for the kids!

Here are a few pictures of the kids in action:
Stop Motion Animation

Suspend a bridge. They did it!!

Reflection writing time! 
Measuring their dream home.

The 2D instructions 
The 3D structure being built from the 2D instructions.

(Sorry - a bit blurry). Coaching tips left by one partnership for the next group.

As we delve further into the process, I am becoming more and more confident that teaching thinking skills through inquiry is the way to go! The kids are highly motivated and their natural curiosity is guiding them. Interestingly, they are also highly motivated to learn about the Habits of Mind themselves. A recent conversation we had about Nelson Mandela focused around the idea that he had to "understand others" (in addition to other Habits of Mind we identified) in order to work with the South African president De Klerk for a fair and peaceful South Africa. What I have realized is everything we do can be framed within these thinking dispositions! Upon looking at the draft BC curriculum, I cannot help but notice how the Habits of Mind fit quite nicely into the "Core Competencies". I believe these thinking dispositions are qualities that are essential in the 21st century, especially if we want to enable our kids' innovative and creative thinking.  Wagner (2012) listed curiosity, collaboration, integrative thinking and a bias toward action and experimentation as essential qualities of a successful innovator. He also maintained this list: "...represent(s) a set of skills and habits of mind that can be nurtured, taught, and mentored!" (p. 16).

I look forward to investigating these thinking dispositions with the students in explicit lessons on each one. In addition to nurturing, teaching and mentoring students' Habits of Mind, I also look forward to observing students discover and uncover new interests within the Think Tank.

Stay tuned for Lindsay's reflection on our next session: "What Habit of Mind have you got working for you?" (Special thanks to Petra for her support and looking forward to further her further involvement in our project!)

No comments:

Post a Comment