Monday, September 22, 2014

The initial stage of an inquiry

In 2012, representatives from the International Baccalaureate evaluated our Primary Years Program. Among the 52 recommendations that came from that report was the following:

The staff review their planning process to ensure pre-assessment, with a variety of assessment strategies and tools, is included in order to consider students' prior knowledge so that learning can build on what students know and can do.

Before new learning can begin, students' current knowledge, skills, and conceptual understandings must be considered. However, this is not the only thing that happens in the initial stage of an inquiry. Provocations should also invite students to wonder and be curious.

At our public school, we do not often guide students through open inquiries, where they can investigate that which is intrinsically of interest to them. Therefore, it is extremely important that we work hard at the initial stage of an inquiry to get kids interested in the concepts/topics taken from the academic standards on which our units of inquiry are based.

In order to pre-assess her students knowledge, skills, and understanding and to get them interested in an inquiry under the Transdisciplinary Theme Who We Are, one third grade teacher lead her students through a Visible Thinking Routine Chalk Talk (from Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison).

Central idea: Community forms when people realize they have things in common.

An inquiry into:
  • Maps
  • Why people settle
  • Family histories and the histories of others
  • A student's place in the world
This teacher posed questions rooted in the Key Concepts of the PYP that fit with the lines of inquiry for this unit. Her purpose for leading her students through this silent conversation was to make their thinking visible so she could assess what her students already knew, were able to do, and understood. She also was inviting her students to think, to wonder, and to be curious about the topics they would be investigating.

As this teacher demonstrates, Chalk Talk is certainly a great assessment tool that gets students interested in the topics about to be investigated.

Below are some additional strategies, tools, and ideas that teachers can use to enter into the inquiry cycle with their students, from different researchers and educators who have created different models of the complex inquiry process.

Creators: Teachers at my school (created during a staff development day)
Initial stage calledInvitation
  • Invites students to wonder about a topic
    • Visual thinking routine: I notice, I think, I wonder
  • Creates a safe environment to take risks/ask questions
  • Allows a space for kids to think outside the box
  • Fully engages students
  • Ignites authentic interest in topics
  • Creates a desire to know/understand something
  • Captures the hearts, brains, and spirits of kids
  • Builds background
  • Starts with aspects that are interesting to students
  • Identifies topics to study (if based on standards)
  • Considers learners’ prior experience and current understanding
  • Pre-assess students to learn what they know, understand, and can do prior to the study
  • Wonder about a topic
    • What is it like that?
    • How does it work?
  • Identify what they already know
  • Are fully engaged
  • Get excited
  • Become curious
  • Are motivated
CreatorsStephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels
Initial stage calledImmerse: invite curiosity, build background, find topics, and wonder

  • Plans instruction and teaches with central curriculum concepts and focus questions in mind
  • Gathers and organizes curriculum materials and resources
  • Immerse kids in multiple sources to build background knowledge
  • Invites curiosity, questioning, engagement
  • Models own curricular inquiry
  • Conducts think-alouds with text and materials related to the curricular topic
  • Demonstrates how to ask questions about curricular topics
  • Facilitates small-group formation to ensure heterogeneous groups with compatible interests
  • Confers with small groups and individuals
  • Express their own curiosity
  • Explore, experience, and learn about topics using texts, visuals, Internet, artifacts, etc.
  • Read, listen, and view to build background knowledge about the curricular topic.
  • Talk, write, and draw in response to instruction
  • Wonder and ask questions
  • Meet with teams to set schedules, ground rules, and goals.

CreatorsKath Murdoch
Initial stage calledTuning In

  • Establishing the 'known'
  • Connecting to students' lives
  • Create a sense of purpose for inquiry
  • Invite first thinking
  • First invitation for questions
  • Ask:
    • What theories do we have?
    • How do you already understand this?
    • What connections can you already make?
    • How could we find out more about this?

CreatorsThe 5E Instructional Cycle
Initial stage called:Engage
  • poses problems
  • asks questions
  • reveals discrepancies
  • causes disequilibrium or doubt
  • assess prior knowledge

  • calls up prior knowledge
  • has an interest
  • experiences doubt or disequilibrium
  • has a question(s)
  • identifies problems to solve, decisions to be made, conflicts to be resolved
  • writes questions, problems, etc.
  • develops a need to know
  • self reflects and evaluates

1 comment:

  1. There was a #pypchat on Twitter on 9/11/14 entitled "powerful provocations". Here is a summary of some of that discussion:

    What is the purpose of a provocation? What are you hoping to 'provoke'?
    *To find out misconceptions (pre-assessment)
    *Inspiration to dig deeper
    *Create tension/internal conflict - disrupt what they already know
    *Introduction to upcoming concepts
    *Establish context and relevancy
    *Look at new perspectives

    What is the criteria for making a provocation 'powerful'?
    *Plays to different learning styles - auditory, visual, kinesthetic
    *Needs to stir up emotions
    *Sometimes a provocation needs to include some background knowledge (front loading), if the concepts introduced are completely new

    *Field trip
    *"What if" questions

    Other thoughts:
    *Provocations don't just come at the beginning of the unit, but also as the unit goes on.
    *Provocations don't have to be a big production. Some big, some small.