This past weekend I had the privilege of attending ConnectED Canada, where I was fortunate enough to collaborate with so many fantastic educators; words cannot describe how I feel. There is something about the energy in a room full of 250+ educators that is exciting, heartwarming and empowering. Not only have I learned so much this weekend through the sessions I chose to attend, but also in the lifelong connections that I have made that will allow me to continue to collaborate and learn throughout my career.
This weekend, being at the Calgary Science School, there was a strong focus on inquiry-based learning. This said, I would not argue that this was the central theme of the weekend as if there is anything that I can take away it is that authentic relationships are crucial. How can a student learn in an inquiry-based setting if they do not feel comfortable? How can a student truly feel comfortable if there are no authentic relationships between the students and with the teacher in the classroom? I would say they can’t. So first off and foremost, before we can see any change in education step one is to form authentic relationships and a positive learning community (PLC) within the classroom so that students feel safe to explore their learning, make mistakes, revise and repeat.
Once a PLC has been fostered, true inquiry can begin. Now, what’s next? Discussing the process, components and compartmentalized pieces of various topics? Not if you’re looking to promote inquiry. At the center of inquiry is a solid understanding of a certain topic. This is guided by broad overarching themes (which could perhaps take the form of a question, but is not necessary) that are authentic to the student and promote their learning. When working with students, present the material in a way that they get to take on a role, whether that is a scientist, artist, journalist, politician, etc., so that the learning is real and connected to the outside world. Ask the student’s questions like, “Is that a question a scientist would ask? How would a scientist conduct research to answer that question?”
“Every student is climbing the same mountain, but the process they take to get there will differ”
We cannot compartmentalize what or how our students are learning, instead we need to support them to discover in any way that best fits them and their own learning style. This allows students to discuss their ideas with one another, ask each other questions and challenge one another to think about what they are learning at a higher level – this is a peer guided process, where everyone in the class is pushing each other to be the best that they can be.
I am extremely excited to be entering education at this time. There are a lot of changes in Alberta right now that are shifting the focus to the students and their learning. I can’t wait to take the tools I’ve gained from the weekend and implement them in my class to promote and engage students in their learning.