Today I lived out yesterday’s predicted “day of learning and fun” at our Inquiry workshop. Our participants made it on terrible roads, which demonstrates the steadfast Saskatchewan spirit and commitment to learning held by teachers in the NESD. It was a great group, with teachers across grades and from many schools, which invited us all to push and mould our understanding to fit multiple scenarios. As suspected, the day was filled with gems.
Of course, our plan for the day was structured to invite the gems. We tried to provide some foundation to our learning about inquiry, but do it in a way that was experiential and inquiry-based, in and of itself. You have to feel inquiry to “get” inquiry. We asked participants to think of an activity they love and flesh out the characteristics of this activity. We shared our thinking on Google Docs (in fact our whole workshop was digital) and then examined these characteristics as they relate to inquiry and to motivation. We then talked about “flow” (when you become so involved in something that you lose track of time.) We learned to recognize this state of being in ourselves during the day. This is how we know when good inquiry learning is happening.
The rest of the day centred on practicing way to invite students to ask strong questions (we used the Question Focus Technique), to have students share their understanding as it develops (through Chalk Talk on Mindmeister) and how to effectively observe inquiry in order to adjust instruction and assess student learning “in the moment.” We read some literature (which I gathered from Twitter!) and worked on fleshing out some “proof-positive demonstrations of learning.” We explored some outcomes to decide what parts were negotiable and flexible and what parts weren’t. If the product was non-negotiable (panel presentation in ELA30) then the process was flexible and if the process was non-negotiable (analysis in social studies 9) then the product was flexible. Lastly, we engaged in a fishbowl, where two thirds of the participants had to create an informational text about inquiry using either Popplet or GoAnimate and the other third observed them. This led to some hearty discussions and sense-making.
What did I learn? What were my gems? I learned that observing without helping is hard; especially when it involves letting people struggle a little. I learned that the Zone of Proximal development varies from person to person and situation to situation…even with adults. I learned that I could actually observe flow, right in the workshop, and what a great thing to see. I received confirmation yet again that learning is richest when it emerges from experience. The less I talk, the better. I also confirmed that I love working with my two co-facilitators. Co-teaching is just better…more strengths to reach more people. I learned that coming up with QFocus statements for the Question Focus Technique is hard, it takes time and is so important to the overall purpose of provoking wonder. I learned that QFocus provocations for grade one students might be better if they were provocative images (provocative, as in provoking wonder). Finally, I learned that adults can play too…in fact, they want to play. This is why I know we need more play in our schools, even for the big kids. Play and learning go hand in hand.
Today was just what I knew it would be…a learning experience and a whole lot of fun.