Exploring evidence and pathfinders

This week in my M.Ed. course on Inquiry-Based Learning  we were asked to read two documents.  The first is from Alberta Education called Focus on Inquiry, and the second was the first few chapters of Amy Alverado and Patricia Lerr’s book Inquiry-based Learning using Everyday Objects. Right from the outset of Focus on Inquiry, the mandate was meaningful and pertinent to my role as a secondary school teacher-librarian.  “As administrators and teachers, we need to know that what we do in the classroom makes a difference to student learning.  Inquiry based learning is one of those activities that positively impacts student success” (Alberta Learning, 2004, p. x).  More and more I find the impetus to provide evidence that I’m having an effect.  Of course, I intrinsically know that I’m reaching lots of staff and students every day but I lack proof.  The layout of Focus on Inquiry will structure a lot of my work this year as I try to formalize the inquiry continuum at my school.

I really appreciate the concise lists, as on p. 23 of the document, for example, as these five points will help me to tweak incoming assignments to make sure that they will allow the inquiry process to be successful for students.

The remaining part of the document shifted to instilling that metacognition become a part of each student’s inquiry process.  Last year I helped classes use blogs as evidence of their metacognition and many of them really came to enjoy blogging their process as a result.  I think blogging (or journaling or developing a sketchbook) will help teachers as well to monitor student progress.  A piece of new learning for me was when the document said: “Inquirers undergo the following thoughts (cognitive domain) and feelings (affective domain) during the phases of the inquiry process” (Alberta Learning, 2004, p. 38).  I didn’t realize before that isolating the cognitive and affective domains would help learners to engage more fully in metacognition.  Creating a blog prompt and class discussion that hit both the cognitive and affective will greatly validate those thoughts and feelings that are a necessary part of inquiry.  I’m looking forward already to seeing these “aha!” moments happen.

After reading the 2004 document, I began to wonder if research pathfinders still have a place in inquiry-based learning in 2012?  I want to understand how can we give learners adequate support without spoon-feeding them. Have research pathfinders changed to better support inquiry?  For example, in the Inquiry-based learning using everyday objects article, Alverado and Herr suggest that in creating collections that we can stimulate inquiry.  I immediately began to wonder if stimulating inquiry through discovery isn’t really a first step in creating a pathfinder.  I have been using two online applications called Mashpedia and Qwiki to stimulate inquiry in my secondary classrooms.  In fact Mashpedia and Qwiki harvest collections from the internet the same way that Alverado and Herr suggest that we harvest objects.  So the logical next step for me is to provide vetted websites to support student research, but at what point do I ask the students to discover these websites for themselves?

Your comments in support of my pathfinder inquiry would be very helpful.

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