Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My thoughts on "Inquiry Based Learning"

                As I sit here writing this blog many ideas are running through my mind as to what to think about inquiry based learning (IBL).  The possibilities that it offers to students to motivate them and to kindle the desire to learn are awesome.  Yet, the scope of the situation of setting up a lesson is also daunting.  Despite this fear, I looked further into IBL and have decided to adopt the motto of, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  With that in mind I have found out some pretty amazing bits of information that I would like to share with you all here.

                First, in a 1989 study it was shown that, the amount of student learning that occurs in a classroom is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of student involvement in the educational program.  Taking this as truth I wondered how I learned anything at all in school.  I mean for as long as I can remember I sat in a room and took notes from a lecture, this was especially true in college.  Yet what this study is saying makes complete sense.  People learn by doing things, not by listening to people describing how to do things.  I have come to realize that with a structured IBL lesson all of the educational goals are possible AND the students will even remember it, or at least more of it.

                Second, the environment of your classroom is vital to the success of any IBL lesson.  This kind of goes in the category of obviously but it still needs to be stated.  If students do not feel comfortable in your classroom then they will not be able to take the risks that are offered to them in a IBL activity.  There is comfort in taking notes and answering questions on a worksheet, because that is what they have always done.  Asking students to do something new is scary, for them and for you, and will not be successful unless the environment is comfortable.  So teachers rethink that old mantra of “Mean till Halloween.”

                Finally, my understanding of the usefulness and academic relevance of IBL has changed during my research.  I realize that in the world today sitting and taking notes is a skill that you need, but should not be the only thing you are evaluated on in school.  In the real world you need to create something, why should school be different?  As long as the activities have a clear academic relevance and they engage the student’s interests, IBL lessons are MORE beneficial than a traditional lesson in which the teacher talks to the students.

                Despite all of this I am still left wondering how successful the IBL process is when it comes to differentiation.   I can picture making the assignments and activities more difficult for your higher achieving students, I just am left wondering how to accommodate for those students who have pretty severe learning disabilities and accommodations on their IEP’s. 



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