Imagine the life of a dog.
Setting out on a pleasant afternoon walk with their favourite person, beginning the adventure to their favourite spot so that they can sniff and explore before returning home. Though, as any dog owner would know, this is rarely how a leisurely walk plays out. Along the way, more enticing trees, objects and scents appear. The dog’s initial mission is thrown off course, and there are now more pressing questions to answer. Who has been here before me? Has a new friend moved in across the road? Why would anyone throw out this perfectly good sandwich? Naturally, the afternoon walk becomes a lengthy event, and your dog is only satisfied to return home when it has sufficient knowledge of the happenings in your neighbourhood.
A dog is one of the most inquisitive creatures on our earth, and is always seeking answers to their growing collection of questions. The inquisitive, intuitive, and curious qualities possessed by dogs are what I endeavour to inject into my own being, as an aspiring Teacher Librarian, and also the minds of my students. As if following the inquiry learning process, dogs begin seeking answers to a primary question or purpose, and develop new questions to explore, whilst on their quest for greater knowledge of the world. If only we could be like dogs; we would love unconditionally, never stop wondering, and never give up.
Image: Author’s own
Why Inquiry Learning?
As a casual primary school teacher, I find myself becoming deflated as I interact with students who are uninterested in challenging themselves in order to solve a problem, or answer a question. So often, I encounter those who just want a quick answer, and don’t see the value in exploring information to become an expert in a particular subject or field. As members of today’s digitally dependent society, many students believe that the answer to every question can be found on Google, and no further investigation is required. While technology is a marvellous thing, we are losing our naturally inquisitive qualities!
As an aspiring Teacher-Librarian, I believe that inquiry-based learning is an essential strategy used in the Australian Curriculum, as it has such great potential to engage students in their learning, promotes higher-order thinking, and encourages students to seek further information along their line of inquiry – to follow the scent! Littleton, Sharples and Scanlon suggest that applying the inquiry-based approach in the everyday educational setting allows young learners to personalise their inquiry in order to make their learning meaningful, incorporating elements such as personal relevance, subject choice and learner responsibility.
Image: Author’s own
Quote from Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three (1964).
Me vs Inquiry Learning
My first experience with Inquiry Learning was during the completion of a Societal Education unit while studying for my Bachelor of Education (Primary) at the University of New England. I learned about the Inquiry Learning cycle, and was able to implement this into a History unit with a year 6 class during my final professional practicum at a primary school. However, since beginning my career as a casual primary school teacher only a year ago, opportunities to implement the Inquiry Learning cycle into classroom learning activities have been limited. A dog would love the adventures I embark on as a casual teacher, roaming from Kindergarten classrooms to Stage 3 classrooms in an average school week. There are so many things to explore along the way!
I have always maintained a holistic learning philosophy, which encourages students to ask questions, be curious, and seek answers even if they seem out of reach. However, in order to develop inquisitive and engaged learners, more authentic investigation opportunities must be provided to students. It is my understanding that the inquiry learning process creates a platform for students to first and foremost, ask questions about a certain topic; this leads to investigation, creation of new questions to ponder during research, and reflection upon the attainment of new knowledge once the journey is complete.
As an aspiring teacher librarian, and dog enthusiast, here are my three questions about inquiry learning which I seek to sniff out:
How can a teacher-librarian facilitate authentic inquiry learning across all stages within the primary school?
- How can a teacher-librarian plan and develop enriching inquiry-based learning experiences?
How can we maintain genuine inquiry learning in a crowded curriculum?
I am a teacher who has much to discover about Inquiry Learning. However, I am excited to be undertaking this quest to challenge myself and expand my knowledge of inquiry-based learning in the primary school.
Take a walk with me…