Structuring an inquiry-based classroom in the 21st century
A place to clean up classroom clutter by reflecting on daily practice, blogging, saving articles, posting practical tips, and all random things that have to do with education.
I recently completed a MOOC through the University of Melbourne called Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills. It gave me a chance to reflect on my teaching through inquiry in the PYP. Upon completion, I am further convinced of the importance of teaching our pupils trans-disciplinary skills. In fact, it is the most important aspect of our program.
What is the difference between these two pupils? One grew up in a school, memorizing content so that they could do well on tests, achieve high scores, and use them to get into university. The other is an inquirer equipped with research skills, communication skills, self-management skills, social skills and thinking skills and able to engage in various realms of learning.
In the cultivation of these skills, the latter pupil developed them through feedback from teachers and peers. They had the luxury of being challenged to approach ambiguous problems collaboratively or individually towards solutions. As they developed from child to adult, these skills became imbedded in who they are as a learner.
Today and in the future, people need skills that can now navigate the endless amounts data that have become available to us since internet and digital technologies immersed us in a sea of information.
Standards or content-based curriculums that teach in a deficit model using specific, pre-determined content should now make way to skills and concept based curriculums. Today and in the future, students need to know how to access content, how to organize it, how to analyze, compare it, utilize it and how and where to access it.
This should be achieved in a classroom environment that engages students in problem solving, through inquiry, through projects, through collaboration. Teachers should not necessarily be concerned with the final outcome but the process of how the student got there. Rubrics, developmental progressions, observational/formative assessments, goal setting, portfolios, modeling and conferencing inform the development of these skills.
Skills should be the primary focus on report cards, overshadowing the traditional subjects, which of course still have applicability. It is difficult for parents and society as a whole to trust this change. Therefore, schools need to explain the reasons why we teach this way and how it will benefit their child’s future. Having ongoing communication, transparency, portfolios and accessible data will help them grasp this approach.
Most schooling is still fixed in pre-internet foundations and have only included ICT and media literacy as a curriculum add-on. The shift needs to happen now. Students need skills that are transferable from discipline to discipline. They need skills that will help them traverse the endless amount of content that is available today and in the future. These are skills that will allow our students to sail the open waters confidently, with grit, and with grace as they crash through the waves of challenge throughout life.
Griffin, P. and Care, E. (2014). Assessing and Teaching of 21st Century Skills.
PYP Grade 4 Teacher