Darryl Toerien and Jenny Toerien will be running an extended workshop – Recovering the Educational Promise of Inquiry – at IASL 2023.
Neil Postman (1969, 1979, 1996) claimed that of all the survival strategies that education has to offer, none is more potent than the inquiry environment, and identified tendencies that sap inquiry of its educational potency. These tendencies are: (1) to divorce inquiry as a dynamic process and skills from learning important content; (2) to reduce inquiry to a mechanical process by divorcing it from a spirit of wonder and puzzlement; (3) to divorce inquiry from both a spirit of wonder and puzzlement and a dynamic process, and so reduce it to a thoughtless fact-finding activity; (4) to “engineer learning” through ever-more technical teaching methods based on ‘hard evidence’ from the field of cognitive science.
Schools must resist the four tendencies identified above, and integral to this resistance should be the school librarian.(*) We will explore this practically through a UK Year 6 (US Grade 5) interdisciplinary Signature Work inquiry that integrates curricular work in Science with curricular work in Art & Design, English, ICT, Library and Maths. Because inquiry is a process of building knowledge and understanding of the world from information, the majority of which exists in recorded form, inquiry is heavily dependent on reading in its broadest possible sense. Reading for learning, which includes non-fiction and fiction, is, therefore, timetabled in English lessons. Furthermore, reflective writing is an essential feature of a Signature Work inquiry, so students are required to submit a written report of their practical investigation in Science and their work in other subjects, which is also timetabled in English lessons. Thoughtful reading and writing are, therefore, a distinguishing feature of the Signature Work, which makes it authentically a STREAM inquiry (Science + Technology + Reading and wRiting + Engineering + Arts + Maths).
(*) Foundational building blocks of our resistance to these tendencies include the IFLA School Library Guidelines (2015) and the work of Barbara Stripling, specifically, Empowering Students to Inquire in a Digital Environment (2017).
For a fuller description of the workshop, see IASL 2023 | Recovering the Educational Promise of Inquiry.