Stay with me here. This is not just a story of what we did, but rather a look into how we inquire. I will need your feedback and ideas by the end of this!
What we did
We started out investigation of natural landforms and settlement in a fantasy world with the following provocation (story is a powerful tool, even more powerful when you find yourself in the middle of you that you can influence and change):
This generated much discussion and debate over the best place to settle. Each kid had a different theory and a different idea. The information in the text was scarce, but important. The scarcity led them to struggle with the ideas. It was hard to bridge the gap between each students understanding, and obvious that a consensus would not be reached. We reflected about why that was, and we realized that we needed more information. But, what information?
Students then shifted their focus from solving the problem, to asking questions to help them solve the problem. What else do you need to know? What information will help you make the best decision? I ensured them that if they asked I would send their questions to Jhor (through a complex process of time travel, it’s too complicated to go into here). This simple shift led to the following artefact:
Now that we have more information, we can start to use it to make a plan. The density of the information we possess is not deep enough to tell us a more complete story.
How we inquire
From the perspective of the facilitator of this inquiry, I can now use these questions to guide it in directions they are curious about, all the while staying in our fantasy world. Of course, we will need to zoom out of the fantasy world to get more details from the real world. The real world will inform our story and our decisions.
From looking at the questions, I can see the inquiry going in several different directions and hitting several different concepts, based on their questions (here is just a small sample, though we could take these questions and make an entire years worth of inquiries, or better yet, the kids could do it themselves):
What is your biggest fear? Perspective, stories form the past affect the future, a look into mythology and oral story-telling
How much land do you need? Function, the space around us determines how we build, an investigation into area and patterns
How fast can you travel in a day? Function, weight and terrain influences travel, an investigation into rates and measurement
What materials do you have/need? Causation, the local environment influences how we build and live, an investigation into how natural resources are used or influence life
Are you a man or a woman? Perspective, different people have different views of gender, a look into gender roles through history
What do you do for entertainment? Reflection, Art influences how we live and what we believe, an inquiry into the history of art on human civilization
Are there any other tribes? Connection, people live in peace and conflict with their neighbours, an investigation into trade and the reasons for conflicts among people
These are just a couple that I came up with. I could go on. Or, I could use the lens of the Key Concepts to change each inquiry into something completely new. We could take the first question about fear, and instead of using PERSPECTIVE, we could switch it over to FORM, and suddenly we are inquiring into the root and base of human fear. Or CHANGE, and we are taking about how human fear has changed as our society changes.
The Big Idea – Curriculum is an emergent artefact that grows with the learners questions and understanding
Inquiry is not limited to what is on the planner at the beginning, but rather it is emerging with the students questions and understanding. The problem that lies before me know is that I already have a structure for this unit that was decided before it began. We have already chosen our key concepts and planned rubrics around them, assessments, etc.
So, who is driving the inquiry? The concepts, the student questions, the story, or the planner? What is the role of curriculum? Is it the ideas that they must understand that is decided beforehand by the learning facilitators(or adults)? Or, is it something that grows with their questions? Are their questions valued if we have already decided what the big ideas will be, and where the unit will go?
I have a thought experiment that I would like your feedback on. Instead of teachers and PYP coordinators sitting down before the unit begins and having discussions about the set-up (or planning for inquiry if you prefer) of the UOI, what would be the benefits and disadvantages of trying something like this:
1. Start with the TD theme (the language use in the TD markers leaves each one wide open for a variety of different interpretations, yet structured enough that they will focus us into a specific space)
2. Plan a very powerful, engaging, thought-provoking provocation (as learning facilitators)
3. Introduce the provocation to the students, have them think and ask questions and record it all
4. Use those thoughts and questions to develop the key concepts, Central Ideas, and Lines of Inquiry (preferably with the students, though can be done within a collaborative teachers team)
5. The Inquiry begins….
What do you think would be the advantages and disadvantages of something like this?
Would love to hear your ideas.