Throughout this course I was pleased to have some of the practices that I use in my classroom community reinforced and validated in addition to learning that Inquiry is a student-centered process for learning in which the teacher acts more as a guide. I have often strived to promote a sense of community and fellowship in my classroom. Through the IBL course this concept was reinforced and my appreciation for the importance of establishing a sense of community in an Inquiry based classroom has grown stronger. I continue to work on developing a classroom community where students feel their ideas are valued and where they feel inspired to take safe learning risks.
Within the Essential Elements of Inquiry, classroom environment was one of several points introduced. Two others were significantly interesting to me. They included Abilities and Understanding of IBL and Understandings About Inquiry. I learned about the Abilities Necessary to Do Inquiry as prescribed through IBL. For me, these abilities echoed the scientific method (Question/Problem, Research, Hypothesis, Test, Data Collection and Analysis and Conclusion with reporting findings) The IBL abilities include: Identifying questions that can be answered through investigations, Designing and conducting an investigation, Using appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data, Developing descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence, Thinking critically and logically to make relationships between evidence and explanations, Recognizing and analyzing alternative explanations and predictions, and Communicating procedures and explanations. Within the Essential Elements of Inquiry, I also learned the Understandings About Inquiry. Having these understanding outlined for me provided a guide that I can use a checklist for assuring that these are addressed in my lessons. The Understandings about Inquiry are:
Different kinds of questions suggest different kinds of investigations.
Current knowledge and understanding guide investigations.
Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows us to analyze and quantify results of investigations.
Explanations emphasize evidence, have logically consistent arguments, and use principles, models, and theories.
New knowledge advances through legitimate skepticism.
Investigations sometimes result in new ideas and phenomena for study, generate new methods or procedures for an investigation, or develop new technologies.
I also learned about the IBL Process Skills which once again reminded me of the scientific method (observing, questioning, planning and investigating, formulating explanations, making predictions, analyzing data, and communicating). While all of these do not need to be present in every lesson, in order to strengthen my lessons and include IBL, I need to be sure that at least one is incorporated.
This class also challenged my understanding about facts and concepts. After conducting an exercise of classifying a group of content statement into fact or concept, I became aware of my own understanding and was able to learn from my peers in this course that other options were viable. This was a clear and excellent example of the ongoing, flexible learning that should be happening in my very own classroom.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the wealth of resources (Web 2.0) available for our use in the classroom But it was helpful to learn that some of the older applications (Google docs) are still tried and true and most useful when integrated into an inquiry classroom along with the 5Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate). Paralleling the Understanding by Design Backward model, the evaluation part of the 5Es is ongoing and aides with the cyclic nature of the inquiry process, reminding me to continually conduct formative assessments throughout a learning unit.