Civil Rights: Developing Inquiry

I had the privilege of attending Project Zero at Harvard this summer and the question was posed about understanding: What is understanding and how does it develop? The answer came in many forms such as having the students to engage, embrace problems, and persevere at challenging tasks. In addition to this, they question and explain what they learn and embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes. This all involves being curious and questioning for deep thinking that leads to complex knowledge. That is when I decided that I needed to further explore how to develop a disposition of inquiry among my students so that they can deepen their level of critical thinking.

I have always wondered why a lot of my 5th grade students aren’t curious and questioning about the content they are learning in my English classroom. Most just take information at face value or as the truth without ever wanting to know the “how” and the “why.” After all, grammar and writing is usually not the favored subject when it is taught in a traditional way. When questions are asked, they are usually not detailed or do not range below surface-level questions that are more in-depth.

Research question:  How can I create a disposition of inquiry among my students?

I tried project-based learning,(PBL), in my classroom for the first time last year, and through my research I learned about inquiry-based learning. I am left wondering if PBL enhances inquiry verses using the traditional style of teaching. What would happen if I showed examples of good open-ended questions that would be excellent for exploring the answer through research and would lead to further questions? How can I ask the right questions and to lead my students to revise their questions that are not open-ended? What are the ways to teach the inquiry process and make it routine in my classroom? I want to be intentional about answering students’ questions with a question that will make them think, problem-solve, be decision-makers, or find a way to answer their own questions.

I have begun a new project this year that will be a combination of project-based, problem-based, and inquiry-based learning, where I can apply my research to find ways of showing evidence of developing inquiring minds among my students.