Do My Students Really Suck at Inquiry?

“My Kids Suck at Inquiry.” Someone mentioned this and the other day, and I laughed, along with others, because it feels true so much of the time.

However, on reflection, is it the kids that suck at inquiry or should we be turning the lens back on ourselves?

We know that kids are natural born inquirers. Proven fact. They eat dirt. They ask a million questions. They stick their hands in light sockets. They take apart things. They make up imaginary trips to fairy land (all experienced first hand from my child and others).

However, as they get older and more “schooled,” they lose some of this curiosity.  I love the essence of the PYP where inquiry should be at the heart of the program. In practice, it’s often a different story.

If we think our students “suck” at inquiry, it’s because we, as teachers and as admin, are doing something wrong. Here are what I see as some of the driving forces that kill inquiry:

  • Same learning for everyone. That even means everyone doing the same math problem in exactly the same way. Everyone writing out a reading log. Everyone doing times tables fast facts. Worksheets.
  • “Unit” on inquiry. We have inquiry slotted into one part of our day as a “unit.” I know the PYP devised this term, but it allows us to separate out “inquiry” from the rest of the day. How can we truly make learning transdisciplinary and inquiry-based? Having a “unit” of inquiry allows us to be lazy.
  • Strict timetabling. Hard to get away with in most schools, but it stops flow and learning and …inquiry.
  • 6 units per year. In upper grades, we have to “cover” 6 units a year, which always feels rushed, and being rushed has not helped allow for inquiry.
  • Planners with a forced summative task assigned at the beginning. I know that backward’s planning makes sense. However, on the rigid PYP planner, and Managebac, which forces you through the steps of the planner, you need to come up with a summative assessment before you’ve even started the unit. This ends up often as a task, which the unit focuses on and doesn’t allow for more open inquiry.
  • Silence. My students are loud, and I get it. However, forced silence, hand raising and traditional classroom management practices leave the teacher front and center and not the students.
  • Planning done by the teachers and admin. Lack of student voice. When students aren’t driving curriculum, planning, school expectations, outside activities, etc…they don’t care as much. They aren’t as engaged, and they’re not going to be inquiring.

What else do you think? What kills inquiry? How can we improve ourselves and our schools so that students can continue with their natural born curiosity?

Originally published on Solid Ground: https://kdceci.wordpress.com/

About kdceci

I am a grade 5 teacher in Bangladesh. I have a daughter in middle school who has always been learning in an IB curriculum. From the US originally, I have been in Asia the last seven years. I am passionate about inquiry-driven education, collaboration, and ensuring kids get to continue to be kids that play, create and think as long as they can. Outside of school, l love to write, read, hike, run, meditate and travel.
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