People often ask why I believe Inquiry learning is such an important approach and to be honest, this can be a really difficult question to answer persuasively in fifty words or less. In fact, numerous educators have admitted to me that they knew about inquiry, could define inquiry but didn’t really have that lightbulb moment of understanding on the effectiveness or positives for adopting inquiry learning, until they used it in their classroom. This is completely understandable as approaches to inquiry are so vast and broad-ranging that it can be difficult to articulate the foundation behind this concept in one fell swoop.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to listen to Veronica Boix Mansilla‘s keynote address on Global Competency at the Adolescent Success Asia Pacific Conference of Middle Schooling in Singapore. Whether or not this was the intention of Mansilla’s keynote, this presentation provided for me one of the most persuasive arguments for inquiry learning and reminded me of exactly why inquiry is so integral in creating learners who are active participants in the twenty-first century.
Essentially learning is about perspectives. Students enter the classroom with a range of different understandings, knowledge and skills, i.e, a range of different perspectives. Learning happens when our students investigate, challenge and add to these perspectives to create a shift in the perspective they had when they first walked into the classroom. We want our students to take, use and understand perspectives in their learning as they build their own understandings, rethink what they ‘know’ and add to this. We want our students to be future-proof learners and this involves ensuring that they are globally competent. Mansilla describes the concept of global competency in the video below:
It is easy to see how this notion of global competency relates to inquiry learning. The essence of inquiry learning isn’t about simply answering questions, it’s about asking questions and taking action. True inquiry doesn’t discriminate against discipline or subject area, instead it pushes students to challenge identities and perspectives through encouraging them to identify problems and issues that require investigation and act on these. It is the understanding created and shifts in perspective that result from these investigations that ensures students are truly learning.
As a convert to the work of Project Zero, I look forward to examining Mansilla’s work further and strongly suggest the work of both Mansilla and fellow Project Zero researchers such as David Perkins as a great starting place for those interested in inquiry learning.