“Agency is for ALL STUDENTS, not just the kids who are dying for it”- Trevor Mackenzie

This past week Trevor Mackenzie joined us for class to talk about inquiry! After hearing from Jeff Hopkins and discussing inquiry in a variety of settings outside of this class it was valuable to hear from a teacher who is implementing inquiry within the public school system I am planning to teach in! The fact that inquiry can exist within the public school system and not just in satellite schools was reassuring to hear as I have been struggling to imagine this occurring outside of those specialized schools. I am reminded both by Trevor and by my mentor Teachers during my observation days that this all starts with the teacher and how you show up to class. Sure, the tech and all the bells and whistles that might be available to work with at a specialized private school are cool and can certainly open up opportunities, but it is by no means essential to leading successful inquiry projects. Inquiry is much more about classroom community!

As touched on in this video, Trevor really emphasized the idea of getting to that un-google-able questions as a way to provoke thinking and inquiry! Both as a teacher and students asking these big questions are at the heart of inquiry.

As I think about implementing inquiry in my own classroom, I find myself struggling to imagine balancing it all within the curriculum as well. Trevor really emphasized knowing your curriculum, which I recognize will come with time, and then finding that spot in the curriculum where students can have more choice. This is the spot where inquiry can thrive! Ultimately students are not going to remember all of the content that you teach, but if you give them diverse empowering ways to learn they will remember those learning experiences.

When considering using inquiry in your classroom, it is important to look at it as a partnership. As much as this is student-centred constructivist learning it is not a free for all. There needs to be adequate scaffolding and accountability involved as well. It is also important that you consider the skills of your students when introducing an inquiry project. If they are lacking some skills don’t throw them into the deep end of inquiry! That being said, inquiry should be challenging and provoke growth, so it is all about finding that fine line!

When I think about inquiry, one of the features of it I am drawn to the most is the in which you can use inquiry to diversify assessment. Within the science discipline, my own educational experience has been largely restricted to some formative assessment, with a heavy weight on summative assessments . These were frequently in the form of quizzes and tests. However looking back on the opportunities I did have to do more project based learning through science fairs, I remember feeling much prouder about my work and learning there than I ever did about getting a good test grade. Given that the university system is still largely based on tests, I think it is important to still have student write tests, particularly in senior science classes, however I would love to be able to diversify the forms of assessment that I can offer in my class. Inquiry projects are certainly one way to get there! Not all kids will perform to their true ability on tests, however if you provide them an opportunity to show their knowledge in their own way you might be surprised to learn just how much they know in comparison to their test grade.

After Trevor’s guest lecture I certainly have a lot of take-aways! I appreciate hearing inquiry from the public school perspective and will certainly look to learn more about this world moving into my own teaching practice.

Want to learn more aboutTrevor? 

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Our EDCI 336 class resource blog here

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