I wrote my first post for Inquire Within on Nov 29, 2010 and my last post was on Dec 5, 2011. I’ve gone two whole years without writing a post! Last school year, after many months of not writing a post for this blog, I asked Edna to keep me on as a contributor. I thought I was just going through a dry spell and an inquiry topic would brew in my head and bam! I’d write a post.
It never happened. A whole school year went by and I just wasn’t thinking inquiry. Even on my personal blog none of my topics were inquiry related and I was writing posts for my blog so it wasn’t like I wasn’t able to write. So far we are half way through this school year and still no inquiry posts are coming to me. I thought I was through. I told Edna to just remove me as a contributor because I just wasn’t contributing. She emailed me back and said that she wasn’t going to remove me, she would just wait until I was ready to post.
I am grateful to Edna for keeping me on and I told her that I didn’t know if I wasn’t thinking inquiry because I haven’t been doing any inquiry with my students or because inquiry is so well integrated that I just don’t think about it. So that’s the topic of my first post on Inquire Within after two years of not posting.
Personally, I’d like to think that the answer to my question is that I’m integrating inquiry so seamlessly into my Science classes that I just don’t think about it. But I’m not sure. One thing I’ve gotten better in my career is not answering my student’s questions right away. It’s not an easy thing! It’s especially difficult when I know we’ll be investigating their questions later, or way later, and I don’t want them to lose their curiosity. At the same time I also don’t want them to lose interest by having to wait. So I often say, “great question, we will be investigating that later.” I know that answering a question causes the questioner to stop thinking about the topic. In their mind they are satisfied that they got an answer so they don’t have to think upon it any further. By not answering a question the questioner is forced to continue thinking about the question and maybe even driven to seek their own answers. That’s what I want my students to do.
So why do I think that maybe I’m not doing inquiry and that’s why I haven’t thought of writing any inquiry-related blog posts? Because not all my students are asking questions. I’m not getting as much question asking as I would have expected. I get what looks like traditional schooling where I propose a topic of study and students undertake the activities, project, lab, or lesson pretty much as I introduce it. No questions asked, no push back, no offering of a follow-up topic or a different course. Well, I won’t say none of the aforementioned, just very little. Maybe one student here and there. It makes me wonder if I could be or should be doing something different to encourage or inspire my students to question more, to push back on topic ideas or on ways to show their learning, to offer follow-up topic ideas, or to offer different courses of study to learn.
I teach three 6th grade Science classes and two 8th grade Science classes. I deliver the curriculum using 3D GameLab, which can be described as a gamification learning management system (LMS), in a 1:1 environment where students have access to iMacs, netbooks, iPads, or their own devices. I have all the tools in place for a high-inquiry, exploration-driven, very-personalized classroom. Have my students been so well trained in traditional schooling that it’s hard to break the habit and go hog wild in my classroom? Is anyone out there experiencing similar lack of questioning in their classes?