When I arrived at Cohort 21, I had determined that I wanted to focus on “How might we effectively scaffold to ensure students are supported throughout Inquiry-based learning”.
I had recently completed an inquiry-based unit in Product Design, where students were developing products for individuals with varying physical and cognitive needs. They began research to inform the development of their products and subsequently used CAD software to construct them. For some, the openness of choice was liberating and they excelled in this expanse. For others, the project’s open-ended nature led to choice paralysis, they were stagnant in determining how to leverage their research for product creation. They also had difficulties maintaining direction within the research. It became evident that when students are faced with inquiry, coupled with diverse ranges of skills, students tend to envision the broader picture with a willingness to expand their skill set along the way, or do not feel empowered nor confident to creatively approach a problem and struggle to progress without the guidance of specific prompts.
Reflecting on this experience, the design cycle helped to take my question and expand it to tangible strategies, it offers crucial moments for reflection and a comprehensive framework for the next steps of implementation. A significant takeaway from the session was the effectiveness of the sticky note peer feedback during the “connections” step and the “Refine and Design” stages. I gained insight into sequence lessons into multiple inquiry cycles, to provide clear checkpoints for learning as well as incorporating observational and conversation checkpoints to offer direction and direct feedback to students. This understanding was enhanced through a suggestion to explore ‘discovery checkpoints and anchor systems,’ which proved to be instrumental. Additionally, I learned about the importance of gradually releasing information once students gain confidence and competence.
However, when I arrived back at school, eager to employ new approaches, I started a research essay writing unit and noticed that the majority of students were stuck on what to start researching. They generally had a topic of interest but had great difficulty forming a research question. I began to question, how can I expect students to embark in the inquiry process when they could not determine a critical question.
Since then, my overarching question has developed into “How can we effectively nurture and empower students to develop critical questioning skills?” Without this fundamental skill, how do students know where to start research or inquiry?
The questions I aim to dissect at the third meeting include: In what ways can educators support students in acquiring critical questioning skills to enhance their ability to initiate and navigate research or inquiry processes? What specific activities can be implemented that encourage questioning skills among students? How can digital resources such as Chat GPT be leveraged to enhance the development of prompts to assist in research and inquiry? What methods should be applied to measure the progress of critical questioning, and what specific criteria should be considered to design a rubric or observational framework?