Inquiry Learning: One Teacher’s Journey – Part 1

Inquiry

I had some comments at the SLANZA Conference last month that my blog has been a bit quiet.  This is true. But it hasn’t been due to lack of material.  It has more to do with timing and the size of the undertakings. Good things take time!

For example, it has taken me the better part of 10 months to be in a position to share about the new and improved Tertiary Prep Programme.

Another significant piece of work I’ve been involved in this year has been supporting and working alongside of one of my teachers as he embarked on a huge mind shift towards guided inquiry learning in his classroom.

It has been a roller-coaster year for both of us so I’ve asked Leon to share, in his own words, how this journey has been.

This will be the first in a series of blogs over the next few weeks outlining:

  • why undertake this journey
  • what approaches were taken
  • the outcomes for the students
  • reflection of the process from the teacher’s perspective
  • the benefits of collaboration

LDN 9Home 15

I am absolutely thrilled to be introducing you to Mr Leon Dunn. Not only is he a pleasure to work with, he has shown himself to be brave in launching into a new direction in his classroom practice, generous in sharing and discussing ideas with myself and others, and genuine in his caring connection with every student who enters his sphere.  Here, Leon shares about why he began this journey:

This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and look at teaching through inquiry in my class. This was a relatively new concept to me and I had only touched on inquiry in a school I had previously worked at.

WHY?

For the past three years I felt I have been just going through the motions in terms of my classroom teaching. There are some great systems put in place in our school for curriculum delivery, but I felt like neither I nor my class had any control over what happened in our room.

An example of this is our school reading programme. A folder was given to me on arrival at the school and we were instructed to only use the resources that were in it! The same applied to writing, where the unit and resources would be given to us and we taught from that. No collaboration with other staff or students about what and how curriculum would be delivered in the classroom. I felt restricted in terms of planning and resourcing and after gathering student voice data I knew it was time for things to change. I was tired of filling my students heads with “just in case” knowledge with a didactic teaching approach that was boring for all of us.

I teach a Year 9 Homeroom / Alternative Pathways class in an all boys school. There is a roll of 15 students in my class, with numbers this low because our homerooms are made up of very low academic and high pastoral needs students. For some of my students it is a win just getting to school on time!

Teaching through inquiry was a scary thought because I would be “flying blind” having no idea how it would work or how the boys would respond. This is my first year trialling this so am by no means an expert on the subject. I am also a self-confessed control freak so letting go and stepping into the unknown is very stressful. But over the course of the next few weeks I would like to share my journey warts and all! 

Leon is a primary, bilingual trained teacher in his ninth year of teaching.  After completing his degree he spent almost five years in London teaching all ages groups from Nursery to Year 6.  Upon returning to New Zealand he worked for a year in Alternative Education before  teaching a Year 6-8 class in a small primary school.  He has been teaching at Southland Boys’ High School for the past three years with Year 7 and Year 9 classes.

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