Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning

This the third post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning) and post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?).

 

Nurturing curiosity in all our learners can be a challenge, especially when we detect a high level of reluctance or “disengagement.” Students, as well as teachers, may need to “unlearn” previous habits such as memorizing content as the goal of learning or viewing the teacher as the keeper of “the truth” (page 38).

Except there are times when it is appropriate to memorize content and when the teacher is the expert in the room.

When I theorize about something I don’t know a lot about, I start by making connections to what I do know. I use my existing knowledge to help my build new knowledge. My curiosity might be naturally aroused but if I can’t ‘see’ a connection or pattern or an experience to this new thing, I likely won’t stick with it. I think that my curiosity deepens when I begin to care about the new thing (object, idea, skill, etc.). Of course, (and I do mean this) there are times when I need to learn to do things or to memorize information that I don’t (yet) care about. I can’t understand that I need to care about these things. If I can learn to self-regulate when I am young, I will have better relationships and more opportunities presented to me in the future. But when I am young, I likely won’t understand that. If I can learn math facts so that they are available to me easily, then I will be able to tackle more complex problems with more speed and efficiency. But while I am memorizing them I may not yet get that point.

When we don’t know what we don’t know, where do we start?

The teacher should certainly adopt a co-learning stance with students, but we should never forget that we ARE the experts in the room. If a student decides to explore the government’s relectucance to establish an inquiry for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, I clearly am not the expert for this content. But I must be the expert in “the discipline and know how to pose intellectually engaging [questions] that will keep the learning moving forward” (page 45).

In terms of learning how to create questions, Watt and Colyer, illustrate how teachers need to teach students how to ask “both discipline-based inquiry questions that develop disciplinary thinking and analytical questions that develoop reasoning and self-reflective thinking” (page 38). I love this because it dove-tails nicely with disciplinary literacies generally (read like a historian, scientist, or mathematician).

This chapter shines a light on the necessity for teachers to be experts in both the inquiry process (formulating questions, gathering and analyzing sources, synthesizing, evaluating, and drawing and sharing conclusions) as well as in their subject areas (essential skills, core concepts and supportive content). I appreciate the list of ‘check-in’ questions (page 55-56) because speaking with students, in both formal and informal conferences, is the work (the teaching-learning process).

I like this series of guiding questions, too.

Figure 18: Analytical questions based on the eight elements of thought

Source: Paul, Richard, and Elder, Linda. The Miniature Guide to the Art of Asking Essential Questions. Foundation for Critical Thinking (2010)

They connect to the learning to be a learner question frames that I use with students.

By Maureen Devlin

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2 Comments

Filed under Teaching

2 responses to “Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning

  1. Pingback: Supporting Conversations | Connecting to Learn

  2. Pingback: Gather and Analyze | Connecting to Learn

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