Monday, March 25, 2013

Inquiry Projects Part I: A refreher and alignment

This is a two part series: Part I is a refresher on inquiry based learning models and their alignment to the Common Core. Part II discusses an inquiry driven 8th grade ELA research unit aligned to the Common Core.

So I've spent some serious time hating on the Common Core, but over the past year I've come to appreciate many aspects of the new standards (though I continue to abhor any additional testing it's generated).

One fantastic aspect of the Common Core is its emphasis on inquiry. Librarians are inquiry experts - it's what we do 24/7. Having the Common Core around helps justify our existence; I'm finding that most classroom teachers are uncomfortable with inquiry based learning, so we're needed now more than ever!

Need a little refresher yourself? In this learning model, instead of expecting students to find the “right answer,” students are asked to find appropriate solutions to problems (typically, the problems - aka "questions" - are generated by students themselves). It puts more emphasis on teaching students HOW to learn rather than simply memorizing content. Another characteristic of this model is the role of the teacher; instead of the teacher serving as a “sage on the stage,” teachers are a “guide by the side,” facilitating the problem solving process rather than simply providing the right answer. This type of lesson design parallels real world problem solving, mirroring the Common Core’s emphasis on preparing students for the workforce.

There are multiple inquiry models out there - the Big6 is one most of you are probably familiar with. Janet Murray has complied a cross-walk aligning the Big6 to a variety of Common Core indicators.

Aligning the Big6 to the Common Core. Visit Janet Murray's Web site for the full chart.

Another example of an inquiry model is WISER, which was developed by Madison-Oneida BOCES School Library System. The WISER model has a nifty graphic cross-walking inquiry with skills Common Core ideas.

The WISER model as prepared by the Madison-Oneida BOCES School Library System.
Regardless of the model you choose, Common Core standards make a strong case for adopting some kind of inquiry framework. As you collaborate with teachers, an inquiry learning model will help ensure you're approaching projects from a Common Core aligned perspective.

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