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@MarciShepard asked a great question on #EdChat that resonated with me (if you haven’t participated in #EdChat on Twitter, do so immediately). She asked how we provide opportunities for students and teachers to think, question, design, create, struggle, collaborate, try, solve, invent, and reflect. While each of these skills is very important in isolation, I believe that collectively they are essential to the learning process for students as well as teachers.
How do we provide opportunities for students and teachers to accomplish these skills during the school day? While there are many creative ways to accomplish this goal, I think using an inquiry based approach provides a great framework because its structure is based on exploration, invention, and discovery. An inquiry based learning environment provides opportunities for collaboration (not just between students) it also provides an opportunity for students to connect directly with the teacher as he or she facilitates the discussion.
This kind of environment also provides hands on activities that are designed with the needs of the group in mind by the teacher. In order to successfully manage an inquiry based class environment, teachers must create an environment where students feel comfortable trying new things, asking lots of questions as well as reflecting upon the exercises and the outcomes. An inquiry based learning environment also encourages students to take risk with their ideas.
Likewise, teachers benefit from an inquiry based learning environment primarily because they are able to be more of a collaborator inside and outside of the classroom. They benefit because they are seen more as the facilitator; thus, empowering students to be active instead of passive learners. I also believe this structure gives teachers flexibility, which provides opportunities for teachers to be creative, innovators. Ultimately, this approach provides students and teachers the opportunity to actively engage in the learning process.
The discussion was a good one, and one worth further discussion. Please share any ideas that you might have about how best to provide these opportunities for students and teachers. tlb