Last week I was approached by the Sport Science department about working with them on a GCSE PE (year 10) inquiry on healthy living, and specifically diet. As the planning time was very short (they started on Saturday), this was a great example of the ‘straight-out-of-the-box’ value of the Investigative Journals. Before I met with the Head of Academic and Curriculum PE I did a bit of digging around, and found Inquiry-Based Learning in Health and Physical Education which gave us some great ideas to use as a springboard. Co-incidentally, a PE PGCE student at our school had arranged a while ago to meet with us next week about using FOSIL in PE, so this is likely to be a useful resource as a starting point for that discussion too.
As usual, we started with the desired outcome (an understanding of the UK guidelines on healthy eating) and the length of time available (2-3 weeks, with 3 lessons per week, for all 4 GCSE PE sets) and worked outwards from there. We decided that the common “healthy lifestyle leaflet” approach might not be the most effective, particularly because the topic is covered similarly in Junior Science further down the school, and wanted something students might find more interesting and engaging.
We decided on the inquiry question “Can restrictive diets be healthy?” (i.e. diets that have some rules about what/when you can and cannot eat). This could be anything from a vegetarian diet, to more ‘modern’ diet trends such as Paleo or intermittent fasting, and could include diets imposed by health conditions such as diabetes or Coeliac disease. They would each choose one restrictive diet to investigate, and the final product would be a week’s meal plan (designed to follow the UK healthy eating guidelines as closely as possible within the constraints of the diet) with a paragraph with clearly referenced sources about whether they considered that diet to be healthy. The group could then conclude the topic with a discussion of the different diets they had chosen if the teachers wanted to. One advantage of this inquiry topic is that there is a lot of misinformation out there about different diets, so it is an excellent opportunity to do some source evaluation in a context where students can see clearly why it matters.
The teachers began the inquiry with some brainstorming discussions on different diets and what makes a healthy diet. In the second lesson Library staff gave a brief overview session on: using the Investigative Journal; citing and referencing; and evaluating sources using the CRAAP test, then students began to explore the topic using books and websites. My colleague Lucy, the Lower and Middle School Curriculum Librarian, worked with one group, then the following day I ran this session with the other three groups all together before they split up into different computer rooms and the Library to begin their investigation.
From an inquiry skills point of view I was struck by:
How competent they were at citing and referencing sources – and what excellent questions they were asking to extend their knowledge of these important skills.
How well they used the Investigative Journal (students often find it difficult/resist using the Construct side appropriately but this group did that really well with minimal prompting)
How thoughtfully they evaluated their sources – and understood why this mattered.
For me this demonstrated how important it is to build on both a framework of skills and a set of familiar resources that students meet repeatedly in different subjects. These students were coming out of the context of Year 9, where they were all taught to cite and reference and had opportunities to practise this and to use an Investigative Journal in several different contexts throughout the year, and this inquiry allowed them to reap the benefits of that foundation.
Not only do students become much more competent each time they practise their inquiry skills, but the time and effort required to teach (and extend) them dramatically reduces so there is more time to focus on the subject content. Using familiar and instantly recognisable scaffolding resources helps them to transfer the skills from one subject to another. In educational jargon, the cognitive load is reduced because the skills have moved from students’ working memory to their long term memory – they have become ‘second nature’. But I think that digression might be better explored in another forum topic…
I will post again soon about how the inquiry is progressing, and the new resources developed for the Construct and Express inquiry stages.