So this week we met 'the inquiry method'. As presented within the NSW curriculum (page 12), this is a very flexible step-by-step framework to guide students through the process of examining and exploring a particular topic. The approach is very student-centric, responding to the knowledge and interests of the class. If you have looked at a topical issue or contemporary field of study in primary school in the last 10-20 years, you may well have used the inquiry method. In short, using this framework, a teacher will work with students through the following stages;
- define the purpose of your investigation, pose questions
- select sources and gather information
- organise and analyse information
- synthesise information to produce learnings
- explore implications of learnings
- plan and implement actions
- introspectively reflect on learnings
This process is a core part of the HSIE teaching methodology. It is an approach suitable for any students from Kindergarten onwards – though obviously the stages are approached differently for different ages. My question is a simple one;
While we may USE the Inquiry Method from an early age, at what point (if ever) is it appropriate to TEACH the Inquiry Method? In other words, should we explicitly teach the framework to make students reflexively aware of the meta-process that they are engaged in?
On the one hand, trying the educate Kindergarten kids on the importance of introspection doesn't seem like a reasonable expectation. But on the other hand, by Year 6 it feels like an explicit understanding of the stages and flow of the process would be a valuable tool in guiding their own learning (and something useful to take forward).
This question is not specifically restricted to the Inquiry Method. It does start to raise broader issues about when and whether to explicitly teach some of the models that sit behind our teaching – both to improve the students introspective capacity, and to provide tools for them to use. Perhaps we should actually teach them Bloom's Taxonomy? Doing group-work – why not give them an overview of Tuckman's group development model? And sooner or later, some of Bertalanffy's & co's systems theory terminology will come in handy?
What is it they say? Teach the non-gender-specific individual to fish and you feed them for life?