Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Educators Richard Beach and Jamie Myers hope that an inquiry will "challenge or interrogate the common-sense, taken-for-granted assumptions underlying the construction or representation of a social world." This should hold true for all inquiries, regardless of the topic. Students should go beyond the mere collection of facts; they should make connections, develop interpretations, analyze points of view, and draw conclusions about how all these "facts" work together. But without reflection on the process as a whole, students may not see how they were able to cultivate such sophisticated thinking habits. Reflection, in essence, teaches students how they learn.
Inquiry should also lead to some kind of action that extends what is learned beyond the classroom. Beach and Myers give an example of middle school girls who, after reading about the life of a medieval girl in Catherine, Called Birdy, each investigated a topic or issue related to girls or women in present-day society (e.g., eating disorders, the "glass ceiling," single-sex classrooms). They then made presentations on these topics to a group of sixth-grade girls, seeking to transform some of these girls' beliefs about women in society. To do this, they used games, discussions, PowerPoint presentations, opinion polls, video clips, and skits.
Beach and Myers reflect on the benefits of their "social worlds" project: "Learning to use these strategies helps students develop greater understanding of how language serves as a tool for constructing these systems, an understanding essential for interrogating their own social worlds." In other words, taking the understanding gained from an inquiry out of the classroom and into the "real world" is essential. Otherwise, as interesting as the inquiry may have been as a classroom exercise, it remains only that. Students must be encouraged to see that what they have learned can lead to a change of opinion and, however subtle, a change of behavior toward the topic studied.