Friday, March 7, 2014

Reflection on Inquiry Based Learning

As my exploration of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) comes to an end, I am left feeling excited about the possibilities that await me and my students.  The information that I have gathered will allow me to better educate my students while preparing them more for the real world problems they will face upon graduation.  Gone are the days where my class will learn in a clean sterile environment where I disseminate information to students who greedily consume it.  Instead, my class will be a dynamic learning environment that will allow students to struggle with bigger concepts while developing the soft skills necessary to succeed later in life.  To achieve this goal I will make a number of changes in my room and philosophy.

First, I will start each unit with the end results for the students planned out.  This backwards planning allows me to make sure that my educational goals for the students are actually being taught and measured.  I have to admit, that once or twice I have reached the end of a unit and realized I missed an important concept.  Well no more!!  The standards will drive my instruction, because everything I teach to my students will be in an effort to reinforce that concept to them.

Second, by using the 5E model (discussed in a previous post) I will know that my students will be engaged and learning in the assignments for each unit.  While it would be naive to think that all my students will be engaged all the time, by purposefully building in engagement activities I will have a higher level of involvement.  By using the 5E model, I have a blueprint to follow to make sure that I am not missing something vital for the students. 

Third, technology is a part of our society today and must be included in lessons for today’s students.  When they reach adulthood they will be expected to know how to use technology in ways that I cannot even think of today.  By exposing students to technology in the classroom, I am allowing them the opportunity to learn and explore what is out there in a relatively low stakes environment. Using technology will allow me to motivate my students, and allow others who struggle in more traditional school activities, to perhaps shine.  As technology continues to develop the possibilities that are made available for teachers is only as limited as ones imagination.

Finally, I will make a purposeful effort to change the type of questions that I ask to my students.  It will be a goal of mine to shift away from the simple fact based questions to more concepts based.  This will allow me to still assess the facts the students have acquired, while allowing me the ability to see the bigger connections they are making with the material.  If I have learned nothing else about IBL at least I know that the soft skills and ability to make connections that is learned throughout this process is the most important skill I can provide to my students.  Anyway can look up the date of an event on their phone, but only a few can tell you it’s importance in the context of history.

I will leave you with this final thought.  While IBL is at first a scary idea, and seems out of place in today’s schools were we rely on high stakes testing far too much, let me assure you it is more appropriate than traditional teaching.   Learning information out of context, or in a box, does not allow anyone to remember it forever.  It is learned for the test and then promptly forgotten.  However, IBL provides the same learning but in an authentic environment that the students will be able to remember.  While the facts might be lost over time, the process they used to reach their goals will stay with them forever.  It is for that reason, and the others I have mentioned today, that I will be shifting my classes over to a more inquiry based environment.  After all, these students will be the ones leading us only a few years.

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