‘In the first part of this post, I outlined four lessons I had learned through the early stages of inquiring into twitter as a means of professional development. Here’s the remainder of that reflection
5. Sometimes it’s great just to be told – but best when I need to know. The best ‘telling’ is fuelled by energy and wisdom.
To tell or not to tell – one of the eternal dilemmas of the inquiry teacher! Inquiry is the antithesis of passive transmission. We want our students to do the finding out and discovering through active, hands on, dynamic experiences. Indeed – I have learned so much by doing just that (see point 3). I have, however, been similarly aware of the value of someone simply telling me what I needed to know when I needed to know it. What an interesting reminder this has been for me of the complex choreography behind the inquiry teacher’s ‘moves’ with their students. While less “learning muscle” is strengthened through transmission there remains an important role in the inquiry dance for some strategic, well timed direct instruction. In fact – at the right time (and used sparingly) it can be the perfect way to boost the learner to the next level of more independent learning.
I wonder, though, how I would have fared as part of a group or indeed a whole class while Meredith did her expert ‘telling’? This direct instruction was targeted to meet my needs and where I was in my learning journey. It was challenging but personalized and supportive. I did not have to do ALL the finding out and ,in fact, once I had heard the information I needed – I was more inclined to go further with my own investigations later. Too much information too soon and I would have been lost,. And yes – Meredith needed the know-how. She wasn’t simply “learning with her student” she had a bigger picture and a more complex grasp of what I was inquiring into.
6. If I reflect and act along the way – I sort out what I am learning.
While this insight is not a new one, I am more convinced than ever that ongoing reflection is critical to meaning making. Most of my reflection has been informal – and stimulated through opportunities to talk with others about what I am doing and learning. In fact –without those moments, I’m not sure how well I would have progressed at all. I have felt compelled to process my experiences through both written (digital) and oral dialogue with others. This has been much more than recounting- it has been about what I am learning about the medium and about myself as learner. It has been about how I feel about it and what my new goals are. I know these conversations have helped me synthesise and consolidate I won’t wait until the end of this inquiry to reflect. There IS no end to this inquiry !
Reflection and action have been partnering each other in this learning dance. Sometimes action leads (for example, jumping into a PYPchat before I had really clarified how to do it!) and other times reflection has prompted action. Over the years of teaching through inquiry, I have learned to give students many more opportunities to reflect and act throughout their learning journeys. What comes naturally to some needs to be nurtured through modeling and prompting for others. We need to make regular time for it in our classrooms – both formally and informally. When it comes to action – we need to remember that the “READY, AIM, FIRE” sequence does not always apply. Sometimes it is more like “FIRE, READY, AIM! ” where the action helps us figure out what it is we need to learn. Lately, I have encouraged teachers to pose action questions to their students as an inquiry begins: “How might you use this?” “How are you using what you are learning” “What could you do now? What might you do later?” Acting sooner rather than later means action itself becomes a vehicle for ‘finding out’.
7. Noticing the learning process is half the fun
As teachers, we bring a unique stance to personal learning experiences. We are more likely to “notice” ourselves as we learn. This experience is proving to be no exception. As I inquire, I am conscious of how I am approaching the process. I am watching myself with some fascination (and at time with frustration!). Of course, I also sink happily into unconscious and deeper flow – but the regular mindfulness I bring to the learning experience is intriguing and telling in itself.
I want the journeys of inquiry I support my students in to help them discover more about the world – but also more about themselves as people and as learners. I need to help them ‘notice’ themselves and wonder at the very process of how they learn as much as what it is they are learning.
Aaaah….so much more I could add: about authentic purposes, the importance of choice, quality feedback, experiencing success, encouragement, the need to make mistakes, multiple sources of information, the power of problem solving…..it’s all there in my own inquiry experience and I know there is much has not yet been revealed to me. I think I am being the inquirer I want my students (young and old) to be – and I know that will make me, in turn, a better inquiry teacher.
When was the last time you consciously embarked on a challenging inquiry for yourself? Into something new and challenging. Maybe that’s just about the best professional learning experience we can give ourselves?