Just last week, I received an email which started with, “When you get a moment I am looking for some advice, a magic wand, or silver bullet.”
The author was expressing an emerging concern about how to respond to teachers when they say, “Guided Inquiry is all good and well, but if we are not EXPLICITLY preparing them for the HSC we are not doing our Job.”
Over the last few years our school has continued to pursue Inquiry learning as the scaffold to support student-centred pedagogy. Like any new approach, there were trail blazers, followers over time and obvious nay-sayers who are determined to remain loyal to what has ‘worked’ over the last so many years.
The author of the email is a trail-blazer who works with teams of teachers to engage in learning initiatives which strive for student-centred pedagogy. The Guided Inquiry Framework used at the College, modelled on Ross Todd’s work, challenges teachers to forgo their dominant instructional approach to one of facilitator and coach. Guided Inquiry acknowledges that the teacher is just one context for student learning with other contexts being online platforms including social media.
And sooooo, the HSC/Inquiry Learning conundrum. The author of the email wrote…. “Guided Inquiry creates conditions of learning/growth and that the description of a successful HSC student = a student able to undertake Inquiry independently.” However, over the first six weeks of school when this teacher/leader has engaged in professional dialogue with colleagues, the (I must say) diminishing ‘nay-sayers’ still argue, “Guided Inquiry is all good and well, but if we are not EXPLICITLY preparing them for the HSC we are not doing our Job.” HHHHmmmmmm……
Towards the end of the email I was asked two questions….
1) Does Guided Inquiry facilitate a ‘better’ HSC student? If so, what does this better student look like?
2) What compelling evidence/tools/videos/hallucinogenic drugs are there available to be persuasive in building bridges between GI skills in Stage 4 = HSC skills in HSC?
Here is an edited version of my response…..
Interesting email. What you are asking in a sense is, “What is the purpose of schooling? To an extreme, some parents would see school as child minding until their child is adult enough to get a job – random! With that being said, a few points……
I do not see it as an “either / or”. I see inquiry as supporting and scaffolding student learning, especially in those ‘higher domains’ of learning such as evaluation, synthesis and creativity. Rote learning for a HSC may not always develop those ‘higher domains’ as well as inquiry learning.
When done well, an Inquiry approach to learning supports rigorous learning, promotes formative assessment and builds student capacity to ‘know themselves as learners’. These are all great attributes to have for the HSC, are they not?
Year 12 is not all about the HSC. No doubt, the HSC forms a very strong focus, but Inquiring students ask discerning questions which not only value adds to the content driven nature of HSC, but life after the HSC.
Also, teachers are no longer the font of all knowledge. Teachers have now become one (still very important) context for student learning. If so, are we trying to encourage students to source information from more than just the teacher? An Inquiry approach supports that.
The skills of inquiry will benefit students for University as much if not more than the rote learning aspects of HSC examinations. Also, the skills of inquiry will benefit students who produce major works such as Visual Arts Major Works, Music Composition, Drama major performance, Society and Culture PIPs, CAFS IRPs, Textiles Major Works, Design and Technology Major Design Project, etc, etc,
Overall, you can see the benefits, some others may not. Not just yet anyway.
What are your thoughts? Please let me know