I recently had the chance to share with students completing their student teaching some of the things I have garnered throughout my career that have served to inform my teaching. It was satisfying to be able to pull together these thoughts. The ensuing discussion was rewarding. I hope to capture them in a series of blog entries.
I was gifted with the opportunity to be part of a brand new school start in the fall of 1999, as Crossroad Elementary School first opened its doors. At the physical center of the school stood the Inquiry Zone, a nationally unique learning environment designed to develop the skills of inquiry in its students. The Inquiry Zone consisted of 80 work stations containing materials rich in investigative possibilities carefully designed to gently suggest ways students might interact with them around questions and investigations of their own design.
At the pedagogical center of the school was a commitment to inquiry, formally rooted in the belief that students are more engaged when they are part of setting the direction of their learning. We worked with students to develop the skills necessary to ask an investigable question, design an investigation to carry it out, conduct the investigation, analyze the results, and present their findings to their peers. The opportunity for choice combined with the requisite skills to follow their interests builds engagement in the learning process. Students are excited to learn when they are presented with the possibility of following their own questions related to interesting phenomenon. Teaching is a joy when working with excited students. At the point in time I find time to retire, I will look back to my years at Crossroads as highlights. It was a grand adventure.
Lesson three: Students learn best when they are involved in setting the direction for their learning. Promote a learning environment that allows them to ask real questions, then teach the skills necessary to find their own answers to their questions.