Thursday, March 12, 2015

Inquiring, not telling

Spatialworlds posting on inquiring to read
 * Inquiring about inquiry with the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

Back to the future with inquiry questions

It is more than telling!

Inquiry (in UK they talk about enquiry) is a word that is frequently thrown around when 21st Century curriculum is being developed.

The thinking is that students will be more connected to their learning and engaged to explore if they are stimulated to think via a range of inquiry questions on a topic/area of study:

"Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand." Joe Exline

Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding. Furthermore, involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that enable students to seek resolutions to questions and issues while constructing new knowledge. Useful application of inquiry learning involves several factors: a context for questions, a framework for questions, a focus for questions, and different levels of questions.

Inquiry Based Learning has fast become an accepted way for curriculum to be written, with student exploration, engagement and empowerment seen as positive outcomes.

However there needs to be a caveat to the use of Inquiry Based Learning in the curriculum. It is not a stand-alone approach but rather an approach which relies on an infrastructure of skills, thinking and foundation knowledge to ensure that the inquiry has rigour, veracity and sound conceptual understandings – it needs to be informed inquiry and not just ‘off-the top of the head emoting’ or ramblings based on minimal or uninformed, if not biased sources.

There is a potential for Inquiry Based Learning to be mis-used and abused by teachers without the skills, knowledge or understanding themselves on a particular geographical topic. To avoid such mis-use, the January 2011 Australian Curriculum shape paper for geography (page 21) attempted to develop a geography orientated inquiry process with rigour.

‘Geographical inquiry refers to the methodologies that geographers use to find new knowledge, or knowledge that is new to them, and the ways that they attempt to understand and explain what they have observed’

Naturally technology has a huge part to play in the development of a rigorous and valid inquiry methodology in the humanities.

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