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Focus on Inquiry - Part 1
In Inquiry Learning
Jenny Toerien
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Forum contributor
Oct 21, 2020
@Elizabeth @micwag @Helen Precious @Tom Neilson - 100% agree that you need to start small. The librarian alone can't effect whole school change. However, it's amazing where starting small can lead. We started about 10 years ago from the top down with the IB Extended Essay, but also realised that we needed bottom up change, so started working with our Year 6 teacher (we are a Year 6-13 school, unusually) because she was very open to an inquiry approach. This is gradually working its way up the school - particularly helped by the fact that our school adopted the IB MYP two years ago, which is a curiculum with a strong emphasis on inquiry for years 7-9 (or can be 7-11 if you do the 5 year program). While the decision to adopt the MYP was very much a senior management decision, FOSIL-based inquiry already happening within the school provided fertile ground that has made the transition easier. I think the key thing is that you can't 'sell' what you don't already have. Making a small but tangible difference in one area (such as the EPQ) gives you evidence that you can use, both with teaching colleagues and senior management, to say "Look what we're achieving here - imagine what we could do if we could do this more widely". My husband Darryl (who runs our school library) uses the advice he was given by another librarian (I can't remember who!) - "work with the living". Devote your time and energy to those who seem interested and prepared to listen, and you will generate results that you may well be able to use in the future to convince those who aren't.
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Focus on Inquiry - Part 1
In Inquiry Learning
Jenny Toerien
Forum contributor
Forum contributor
Oct 20, 2020
@Tom Neilson - something I have taken a long time to work through is how important the Connect stage of FOSIL is, particularly in free inquiry. In more structured inquiries it can often be a simple brainstorming stage looking at 'what we as a class already know about this' - which is a good way into Wonder. However, if I look at the Skills Framework then right from Year 6 upwards Connect includes looking at sources of background information to generate ideas for inquiry. I know for myself that I often don't make enough of this stage - largely because in simpler inquiries lower down the school there isn't really time and we choose a different focus stage. It is important that for EPQ level students, for example, Connect includes the background reading they do 'around' their topic before they have identified a research focus. Wonder then involves working out what a good question looks like for this topic and what lines of inquiry they are interested in pursuing - but they probably won't settle on the final wording of their question until they are on that boundary between Investigate and Construct. (Kuhlthau's Information Search Process views this as the boundary between Exploration and Formulation, where students' thoughts become more focussed and they move from collecting relevant to pertinent information - similar to the Alberta Retrieving and Processing boundary - and is also quite a useful model to look at at this level). It is important to acknowledge the 'messy' nature of inquiry. Students will move backwards and forwards between the stages of any model (hence the double headed arrows in FOSIL). The more complex the inquiry, the more backwards and forwards movement there will be. While I like the 'Planning' aspect of the Alberta model, and think that perhaps that could be more explicit in FOSIL, I miss 'Connect' right at the start to locate the inquiry in prior knowledge. For younger years we often tend to downplay the 'product' right at the start of the inquiry and aim to get students to focus on understanding the topic. This reduces the desire to leap straight to designing a pretty poster/ glitzy presentation before they actually have anything worthwhile to say. For older students, who have more control over the pace of their inquiry, I do like the Alberta model's focus on planning their inquiry right from the start and the way 'Review and revise plan for the inquiry' appears all the way through to Sharing though. I also miss the 'Construct' stage of FOSIL ( 'Building an accurate understanding based on factual evidence') in the Alberta model - 'make connections and inferences' is there in the Processing stage, but the first mention of 'new understandings' is in the Sharing stage, which seems quite late. (BTW @Tom Neilson, @Elizabeth is right - we'd love to chat with you in the FOSIL Group forum too. We're all on a journey with inquiry and it's good to be able to support each other in that!)
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Focus on Inquiry - Part 1
In Inquiry Learning
Jenny Toerien
Forum contributor
Forum contributor
Oct 20, 2020
Apologies for being late to the discussion! Some really interesting comments about the emotional side of metacognition here. We've been using the 'affective' strand of Kuhlthau's Information Search Process alongside FOSIL, particularly in our Upper School for some time now. This is similar to the affective domain of the Alberta model - presumably because it is rooted in the same research. For me this has several important effects: - It is as important for adults as children - because I expect to go through the 'confusion, frustration and doubt' stage every time I design an inquiry it doesn't bother me as much as it used to: I anticipate it, make time for it and I find I am able to pull myself through it more quickly. Still frustrating though! Teaching colleagues I have spoken to about this actually find it a huge relief, both because we all experience it - either in ourselves or in our students - and it is helpful to know that it is a sign that things are going in the right direction not getting off track. - It is important for inquiry design. Kuhlthau talks about watching out for 'zones of intervention'. Students are more likely to accept and even seek expert help at times when they feel uncertain - at other times they may see it as interference. Knowing when students are most likely to need help is important for timing our interventions. - It is important for students to understand that they should expect to feel this way - and that is OK. It can be particularly challenging for brighter students who are used to understanding everything. At the start of a 'free' inquiry (such as the EPQ or IB Extended Essay), where students have a great deal of freedom to choose their own path, I usually tell them explicitly that if they don't go through this stage they probably aren't challenging themselves enough and the eventual inquiry may end up being too superficial. It is really hard to make room for meaningful reflection all the way through an inquiry though (and I think that is a strength of the Alberta model that that is explicit). I really like @Helen Precious comment about reflecting on our own bias as we select sources.
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Jenny Toerien

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