Recently, I was invited to facilitate a workshop for a private school in Izmir on concept-based inquiry. The school had recently undergone the self-study process and a revision of its guiding statements. With a newly revised learning and teaching policy based on the new mission and vision, the process of shifting the approaches to teaching had to begin. I was asked to shift their beliefs about learning and teaching from a teacher led classroom to that of a thinking classroom through concept-based inquiry. Sometimes shifting mindsets can be quite a challenge because beliefs are challenged and affected by the need for self-efficacy.
The school follows Cambridge International Curriculum (CIE) and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). As the course was not solely for primary teachers but including the whole school staff, I had to consider ways to make the content contextual for all ages so every teacher could visualize concept-based inquiry in his or her context and age range. Thus, I chose the run the workshop through concept-based inquiry day and allow the teachers to learn about inquiry by experiencing it. Before I arrived that Saturday, I sent a short survey to pre-assess their understandings so I could be sure to address any misconceptions and try to find ways to answer their questions.
Some of the questions and misconceptions I saw were:
In order to be able to address these questions and misconceptions, I decided to begin the workshop with a jigsaw activity wherein different groups read articles about concept-based inquiry and created a headline with a summary of the content. During the sharing time, I observed discussion, critical thinking and reflection. Using this learning engagement, enabled the staff to begin to shed some light on their areas of concern.
Then we used the Frayer Model to define inquiry-based learning before taking a look at a step deeper to concept-based inquiry.
As a time of application, I asked the teachers to plan one lesson that would be inquiry-based using the lesson planner acronym from Jane Pollack, GANAG. We did this rather than planning an entire unit because the workshop was for just one day. To guide the teachers, I gave them a template that explained this acronym more thoroughly with examples to show how it can be useful and relevant to the concept-based inquiry classroom.
G - goal - with inquiry, we begin with a question or a series of questions
A - access prior knowledge
N - new information
A - application
G - goal review / reflection time
Finally, everyone filled out an exit ticket using the visible thinking tool, I used to think but now I think. This was even more rewarding than the conceptual understandings. It was an amazing day and I was so happy to see all teachers finding relevance to their context - from early years to grade 12. Everyone left the workshop feeling challenged and empowered to try out concept-based inquiry in their classrooms.
As an international educator, I work with colleagues in my local and global network regularly to implement concept-based inquiry. It is a journey of discovery, learning and growing our own understandings about the ways children learn.
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