This chapter from Independent Together: Supporting the Multilevel Learning Community (Manitoba, Canada) provides a model for planning an integrated approach to inquiry learning. Central to this is the idea of teachers and students sharing responsibility for the inquiry process, resulting in active and self-directed learning. It also advocates for multidisciplinary learning, with instruction embedded within inquiry. This provides confirmation for me that integrating inquiry within the classroom curriculum is possible and can have positive benefits for students. The planning model presented in the chapter would be of assistance to a teacher embarking on this approach to inquiry learning.
This article by a New Zealand deputy principal explores two approaches to curriculum integration and three approaches to student inquiry. From this, it can be seen that a co-constructed student-centred curriculum arises from a democratic, hybrid pedagogy. The author also considers whether inquiry learning is a process (a way of doing) or a paradigm (a way of being). This paper introduced me to the concept of a democratic, hybrid inquiry approach, which feels like the emergent curriculum I have used with kindergarten children. The features of an inquiry pedagogy also mirror what I know and believe about children and their learning.
This book was co-authored by Kath Murdoch (Australia), who is well known for her work in the field of inquiry learning. Chapter 7 focuses on planning a learner-centred curriculum using an inquiry framework. Examples are provided for teachers to reflect on their practice. Throughout the book, integrated learner-centred approaches are advocated. This has introduced me to the possibility of using an inquiry framework in planning an integrated approach to learning. It feels less structured and teacher-driven with an emphasis on big ideas rather than themes and topics.
This YouTube video created by the Washington International School outlines what is involved in an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) unit of inquiry. Educators talk about their integrated approach to planning activities for a unit on weather. This gave me some insight into the way in which the PYP approaches inquiry learning. Whilst it is integrated across the curriculum, it is clear from the video that the unit of work is driven by the teachers, rather than being co-constructed with the students or centred around their questions.
This article gives an account of a Grade 4 class in a New York public school, in which the teacher has placed the students’ questions at the heart of the curriculum. It shows how the children move through individual inquiry projects based around questions that they have. Reflections on the process and the elements needed for teaching in this way are also included in the paper. This clearly demonstrates the value of allowing children to follow their own questions in inquiry learning, rather than using teacher-designed units of work. The positive effects experienced by the students are clear from the description of the activities they engaged in. I found the table outlining the elements of the process very helpful. The only issue is that, due to the demands of the mandated state curriculum, this approach is confined to research time, which is about three hours each week.
This blog by a Grade 1 teacher in Canada provides examples of projects undertaken with his students. His approach is underpinned by the philosophy and practice of Reggio Emilia, resulting in an emergent curriculum with a focus on inquiry, creativity and play. Here is an educator who is working with children in an integrated co-constructed way. It is interesting to see how this approach to inquiry learning has transitioned from theory into the real world. It provides inspiration and insight for those interested in teaching in a student-centred way.
This article gives an account of an inquiry project undertaken by a multi-age (Grade 1-3) class in Canada. During this, the children pose questions, develop theories, conduct research and reflect on their learning. The environment is rich with possibilities, leading to questioning by the students. The importance of relationships in the inquiry process is also highlighted, along with the embedding of a range of literacies within the project. For me, this was a beautiful example of co-constructed inquiry, which unfolded over an extended period of time. It shows that it is possible to embed inquiry learning within a primary curriculum in a deep and meaningful way. It demonstrates what happens when the teacher places the children at the heart of learning. NB. There is a paywall on this website, requiring a payment to access the article.
This book focuses on schools in Toronto, Canada, which are implementing an emergent curriculum approach to inquiry learning based on the philosophy of the preschools in Reggio Emilia. In the introduction, the rich images of the competent child and adult are placed at the centre of the curriculum, underpinning all that happens within it. This is exactly what I have been looking for: inquiry learning being co-constructed by children and adults in meaningful ways. There are no units of work designed by teachers to investigate a topic. Instead projects arise from the children’s interests and questions and unfold organically. This is precisely what is happening in early childhood education; except in this book, it is playing out in primary classrooms.
EL Education is a non-profit organisation what partners with schools in the United States to support the implementation of an expeditionary learning curriculum. This webpage is part of their website, which contains information, resources and professional development opportunities. The focus is on integrated long-term projects of inquiry, which result in culminating pieces of work. The projects that are undertaken involve fieldwork, research and sharing of ideas and information. The culminating pieces include detailed drawings and paintings, song and dance, and fiction and non-fiction books. However, as with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, it looks like these projects are whole-class rather than individual and are being driven by the intentions of teachers, rather than by the questions of students.
This article describes the implementation of the expeditionary learning approach in two schools in Rochester, New York. These are located in areas where children and youth are marginalised and disengaged within the education system. Yet, in these schools, the students are highly engaged and demonstrating positive outcomes from their learning. At the centre of the approach is the learning expedition. This involves fieldwork, adventure and community service through individual and group projects, which are guided by the children’s questions. The information in this article seems to present a different picture of expeditionary learning from that found on the EL Education website. It shows how the learning expeditions are child-driven and mirror real-world research. There is no prescribed curriculum, although the schools are still tied to the state standards. But, for me, what came through was the importance of developing a strong school culture, in which inquiry and questioning is embedded. Combined with respectful relationships, this appears to create an environment in which children are engaged and motivated to learn. NB. There is a paywall on this website, requiring a payment to access the article.