Teachers Diving into Inquiry

Teachers Diving into Inquiry

Over the last years I have offered a course about inquiry-based learning to graduate students. These students are usually teachers that are working full-time in their own classroom while completing their professional licensure and master’s program.

During the course, we meet one a week in person or online to discuss readings and reflect on our teaching this week. I like the books “Taking Action” published by NCTM, which come tailored for elementary, middle and high school. Besides offering research based evidence for the teaching practices they recommend, they also include classroom videos and vignettes, and thoughtful teacher action plans for each chapter. I also visited their classes once, which allowed us to go even deeper in what they may be ready to try next.

This Spring I had two teachers taking my class by special arrangement, Lauren (4th grade) and Jackie (6th grade), and they decided to write blog posts about their experience. It was a wonderful experience for me to support them in changing their practice. While they had challenging questions for me about using more inquiry, they were always open to try a new idea and reflect on the impact.

Think of your class. What do you see? Do you see lethargic faces, students with their heads down, and only your top 10% answering your questions? Or do you see all students engaged; regardless of level? Do you see students talking about math in a productive argument? I can tell you that in just a few months, I have transformed my classroom from the first classroom example to the second.

There’s a famous line that many people use when they describe teaching. “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand.” I’ve always loved that quotation. I’ve tried to base my teaching style on it, like most teacher’s I’ve met or worked with have as well. But it wasn’t until recently that I actually knew what that meant. Or how powerful it can be.