A year ago we started to talking in detail about 21st century learning and personalized learning (the 3 C’s and the 7 C’s and sometimes the 8 C’s) and, in the process, the focus in our district has been on delving deeper in order to fully understand and embrace the concept of inquiry. While most jurisdictions around the world largely agree with the skills and attributes espoused by those questioning the current educational system, the challenge has been to formulate what this new model tangibly looks like for students in schools. For us, this “inquiry” is helping us define what “it” really is.
For a couple of our schools this rubric created by the Galileo Educational Network is proving to be a very helpful starting point.
Inquiry is another term that can have very different meanings to different people. The Galileo Educational Network sees it as:
. . . a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world. As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.
Inquiry is a study into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It is the authentic, real work that someone in the community might tackle. It is the type of work that those working in the disciplines actually undertake to create or build knowledge. Therefore, inquiry involves serious engagement and investigation and the active creation and testing of new knowledge.
In West Vancouver, this process of inquiry is taking several forms. In some places it is well-defined and in others it is more organic. In listening to principals and vice-principals discuss areas of focus for their schools for next year, almost all of the schools have some focus on inquiry.
At Eagle Harbour, the approach is linked to Montessori, while at Cypress Park and West Bay it is connected to the Primary Years Program International Baccalaureate Program (IB). At Rockridge Secondary, they also link their inquiry work to IB, using the Middle Years Program as their foundation. Caulfeild Elementary is launching its IDEC (Inquiry based Digitally Enhanced Community) as a foundation for its school structure. While not as tightly defined, similar thoughtful work is taking place in other schools — many being guided by Understanding by Design (UbD) assessment work. UbD, particularly in the elementary schools, has had a dramatic impact on lesson and unit construction, instruction and assessment. As I have often said, it is some of the most difficult, least glamorous professional learning we can undertake, but it can really improve our practice.
A common theme with inquiry is one that is also true with the conversations around personalized learning — it really redefines the role of the student and teacher and what each of them does in the course of their day. Combined with emerging technologies, this approach to themes and topics is changing what engagement can look like in our schools.
For all who lament the slow speed of change in education, it is fascinating to see how quickly our district is coalescing around inquiry as part of what we do in West Vancouver.