You shouldn’t – I, for example, have been on what at times feels like an impossibly steep learning curve with FOSIL since 2012, and longer than that as an approach to learning and teaching, and “humble pie” is still my staple diet. I/ we really appreciate your willingness to ask these questions so that our individual and collective knowledge can become explicit to the benefit of the whole community – for that reason, and with your permission, I would like to move this to Topic to Inquiry and resource design.
There are a number of things to take into account here.
The first is who the inquiry is for and the purpose it serves. Our main intake is in Year 7 (and Year 9 and Year 12), but for historical reasons we have a relatively small but growing number of Year 6 pupils. It is unlikely that these pupils will have encountered FOSIL as a process or a model before, although a number of our feeder schools have adopted FOSIL to a greater or lesser extent. Consequently, this inquiry (see here for the Inquiry Journal) serves 4 purposes, which is (1) to learn about Alfred the Great (2) through a controlled inquiry, which (3) allows us to introduce them to the FOSIL model of the inquiry process, and (4) equip them with age-appropriate inquiry skills. The fact that this is a controlled inquiry is important (I found Daniel Callison’s The Evolution of Inquiry: Controlled, Guided, Modeled, and Free very helpful, and I have also attached a poster that Lucy produced from Callison’s book), because this is an essential part of the scaffolding process. The two main characteristics of a controlled (or closed) inquiry that concern us here are that (1) the model of the inquiry process is explicit, because we are teaching the process, and (2) the knowledge that we are expecting the pupils to gain about the topic – in this case, Alfred the Great – is largely predictable, and so, therefore, is the outcome of/ answer to the inquiry – in this case, “What was so great about Alfred the Great?“. Having said this, it is important to point out that while the outcome of/ answer to a controlled inquiry is largely predictable – the evidence only supports narrow range of answers – the knowledge and understanding that children gain of the topic is important and new to them.
This leads to the second thing, which is that while a good inquiry requires us to work our way through the inquiry process, doing so from our perspective as a teacher is different to our perspective as a pupil. Sticking with the Year 6 Alfred the Great inquiry, pupils may know very little about him at the start of the inquiry (Connect), which is absolutely fine. However, even managing between them that that he was, or even may have been, a king, immediately opens up (Wonder) into King of? When? For how long? Was he actually a great king? If so, why? And so on. Pupils may need more or less help with this, because learning to ask serious, helpful questions is not easy. These questions then guide the Investigate stage, during which stage pupils look for reliable, age-appropriate information that will help them to answer their immediate questions and, in turn, Construct a reasoned response to the inquiry question based on evidence that they uncovered during Investigate. It is worth pointing out here that we limited them to the most basic Britannica article because our focus in this inquiry was not on finding reliable information, but on learning from reliable information. It is unlikely that pupils will conclude that there are no grounds for considering Alfred to be a ‘great’ king, and the reasons that they give in support of him being considered a ‘great’ king are likely to be similar, although they may disagree on the relative importance of these. In terms of what we are expecting them to learn about Alfred the Great, this is about it. This may seem inefficient if all we are concerned about is how much/ quickly they learned about Alfred the Great, but that is clearly not all that we are trying to do, and the gains build over time.
Finally, what you have highlighted is that inquiry is not a thoughtless “method to be implemented according to a preformulated script” (Galileo Educational Network quoting Gordon Wells) – Connect (done), Wonder (done), … (done). Rather, it is a messy process, especially when beginning to learn how to become increasingly effective inquirers. I may know much, little, or nothing to start off with (which is why background reading is actually part of the Connect stage, time permitting), but at the very least I have a complex question to get me going (Wonder), which, by definition, is made up of a number of simpler questions, all of which require information (Investigate). My investigation may lead to more questions (Wonder), which require more information (Investigate), while attempting to make sense of the information (Construct) may require more information (Investigate). Making a compelling argument (Express) may require more evidence (Investigate), and Reflecting on the product and process before the end of the inquiry may require me to revisit any number of stages. This could go on forever, but common sense and the timetable prevail – have I answered the inquiry question as well as I can with the resources at my disposal?
As always there is much more to say, but perhaps others will pick up where I have left off.