Tag Archives: inquiry

9th Grade Humanities & Mission: Learning at the Service of [ ]

Over the past two years, our library has taken a prominent role in helping to develop our 9th Grade Humanities curriculum. The course itself is fairly traditional: we close read literary and informational texts for themes and concepts. We write argumentative paragraphs and essays. We perform research on historical events. We develop the skills necessary to excel in the study of history and literature. We even complete a few group projects, too.

Yet, we’re iterating Humanities into a interdisciplinary study of literature and history that supports individuals in skill development while situating learners into real world challenges that ask them to put their growing body of knowledge and ability at the service of our greater community.

If you tailed off, spun out, or otherwise crashed somewhere in the crags of that sentence, you’re not to blame. We’re building quite a bit into this course, and each component shows commitment towards creating learning experiences that fully embody our mission.

After all,  what steers our institution should drive the learning we undertake with our students, too:

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The course still needs to mature to more realize and measure the ideals, yet here’s a rundown of our progress thus far.


Individualization: Content & Skill

Our approach to course content with aspirations towards individualization? Balanced. We believe in the necessity of discussing, analyzing, and developing ideas within a safe intellectual community, so our students share texts such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. Yet, we’ll use such texts as launchpads for individual explorations: we’ll create annotated bibliographies (and, eventually research essays) on topics and questions of individual interest that we unearthed while exploring the texts. While such inquiries are highly individualized, they emerge from a collective experience, and the skills we cultivate challenge each student to become even more effective literary scholars and historians.

Our individualization continues to emerge within the realm of assessment, as well. We collect and distribute data sets from our assessments to showcase individual learning accomplishment and also target areas for growth in future units, lessons, and tutorials.


The learning target students receive at the end of each project. This model is inspired by Mike Gwaltney, a history department chair at Oregon Episcopal School and one of the leading experts on project-based learning.

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The data we collect on each learner’s ability to comprehend and process texts, using the digital reading platform, ActivelyLearn.


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A bar graph displaying a student’s performance on a short oral presentation from last week. We’ll use these forms to create goals for another short oral presentation we’ll complete this week, and we’ll track the changes as we go.

We are using our data sets to provide detailed feedback to learners so they can create very targeted goals, developing individualized action plans for students who want to improve and extend their abilities. As our system solidifies, we want to empower each student to articulate their strengths and weaknesses, and we want each student to carry a personal toolkit for becoming even more effective scholars and performers.


Knowledge: A Conceptual Approach

As a learning environment that supports the principles and aspirations of International Baccalaureate programmes,, we forefront conceptual understanding ahead of any particular topic, issue, or text. We want our students to transition from one historical event or literary text to another equipped with frameworks to question, understand, and build knowledge.

Currently, our unit focuses on investigating how varying how varying perspectives and identities create conflict within the communities, and what factors influence the resolutions of such conflicts.

We look into the Abolitionist, Suffrage, and Civil Rights Movements. We unearthed the parallels between the the “Declaration of Independence” and the Seneca Falls Convention’s “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.” We investigated the rhetorical structure of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman,” and we dived into the rhetorical strategy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

We also read Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees to see how our considerations of race and gender intersect.

Even though we leap through space and time, these concepts are the threads that sew our understanding together.

Creativity & Citizenship

But our learning doesn’t stop with developing skill and understanding.

Instead, we want our students to see how they can set their knowledge towards the service of something–to put their knowledge into action.

A focal point of each unit of study in Humanities is a community focused action project.

For our unit on identities and perspectives, we are collaborating with Tacoma’s Reconciliation Project Foundation, as the 1885 expulsion of 600 Chinese workers from their residences on the Tacoma waterfront has been a human rights violation of local significance, and the city’s relatively recent actions to reconcile that event is perfect fodder to continue our investigation of communities, perspectives, and identities.

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On a recent visit to Chinese Reconciliation Park, we took photographs of aspects of the park that embody the foundation’s values. Here is a photograph of the Fuzhou Ting for the value, ‘inclusion.’

Currently, we’re mid-project. Our class has listened to board members from the Reconciliation Project Foundation who have presented on their aspirations for the project. We have toured the nearby Chinese Reconciliation Park. We have used these experiences to discern the values the foundation is striving to build within our community. Such activities have deepened our close reading abilities. After all, one should analyze a presentation or a space just as one analyzes a poem or a story.

We have created Opportunity Statements to recommend which values we feel should be amplified, and we have written Historical Studies to showcase how these values are embedded in the concepts and events surrounding the Chinese Expulsion.

We have also employed a toolkit of ideation methods, from the Impact-Effort Matrix to the NUF Test to develop plans to help the Foundation amplify the values we see the foundation aspiring to achieve.

In the coming two weeks, we will pitch both our understanding and ideas to foundation members. The feedback we’ll receive will be used to iterate our plans, and we will eventually create full-on presentations, some of which will be given to the entire board of trustees during their May meeting.


In future posts, we’ll showcase a few in progress or unrealized goals for the course as well as investigate why the library team is so involved. But for now, we’re excited to report some of the strong steps we’ve made towards transitioning our 9th Grade Humanities class into an even greater realization of Annie Wright’s mission, and we’re searching for  even more opportunity to amplify how we individualize learner interest and growth while building a body of knowledge that is then employed to engage and impact our wider community.

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Picademy & Raspberry Jam! A Journey into Connected Learning

Over the past few months, you might have stopped by the library and seen me fiddling with the following:


A sound sensitive bulletin board. When finished, each letter should light up at 3 second intervals, so long as there’s little to no noise in the vicinity. If there’s noise? The lights will cut out, and the timer will begin again.

And for the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not *yet* finished with my sound sensitive library sign. For someone who has no experience with electrical engineering, programming or, frankly, making bulletin boards, this stuff is tough!

But it’s also a blast, and throughout the process of researching and developing this sign, I’ve discovered entire communities who create, make, hack, develop, and share knowledge around microprocessors, tiny computers that can control electronics.

While I’ve written about Connected Learning here before, the impact of diving into such communities has never felt more visceral, especially given my relative ignorance at the start of this process.

Again and again, I’m reminded: learning has never been easier. There are communities and collaborators both locally and globally willing to help us learn in one way or another.

So, my sign is controlled by an Arduino, but my learning journey with these internet communities led to me to a device that I feel has even more potential: Raspberry Pi.


Plug in a power source, keyboard, mouse, television, and SD card, and you have yourself a fully capable home computer.

A UK Charitable Foundation, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission is to accelerate learning in computer science in the UK and throughout the world. They fund their educational efforts by selling a $35 computer called, well, a Raspberry Pi. The Foundation then turns around and creates learning resources and educational experiences for students.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation also puts on Picademy, a free professional development opportunity for teachers. While there have been numerous Picademys based in the UK, last March featured the first ever Picademy USA, hosted by the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

I applied, and I was grateful to be awarded a coveted spot. I was also lucky enough to receive travel support from AWS to be able to attend the event.

And what an event it was.

My journey with Arduino taught me the power and possibility of ‘physical computing,’ where we use the tools of the digital world to impact the physical world. An example of this might be my READ sign, but there are many, more sophisticated uses of physical computing. These range from equipping clothes with lights, speakers and sensors that respond to a wearer’s movements, to, well, self-driving cars.

But Picademy? It showed me even greater potential for such work. Not only will Raspberry Pi operate as a computer, but its price and features has accelerated my ability to think about turning anything into a computer. My garden? Let’s get a moisture sensor and automate its watering cycle. My bicycle? Let’s have it send me text messages if anyone nudges it (or, at worst, steals it!). My library? Let’s take something I gleaned from our visit to MKThink and use motion sensors and digital trip wires to see how displays, furniture rearrangements, and other changes might cause patrons to increase or behave differently (This is also why WeWork’s presence is skyrocketing!).

Most importantly, Picademy taught me just how amazing forays into physical computing can be for kids. After all, the software in a $35 computer can be easily changed, hacked, and even broken, but since the operating system lives in a micro-SD card (just like you put into your digital camera), the Raspberry Pi can easily be fixed. Plus, there are so many cool projects for young learners to undertake, like this Parent Detector!

While attending Picademy, I learned how to program my Pi so that an accelerator to change an image on an LED screen:

And how to connect the Pi to switches and lights:

And, I learned a variety of different teaching and instructional strategies to get others interested and engaged in physical computing. I left the weekend officially titled a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator:

And I also met so many incredible, experienced, and thoughtful educators dedicated to helping kids learn computer science, so much so that I left the weekend emboldened to learn more. Thank you, Matt, Phillip, Carrie Anne, Ben, Marc, David, and Courtney, and James for the experience.

Next up?

Raspberry Pi is best controlled through the programming language, Python, so I’m taking on the modules served up by Treehouse, which I highly recommend.

I’m diving into the Pibrary Project, an incredible resource around how libraries are using Raspberry Pi with their patrons and in their own operations.

And, I’m planning to teach kids physical computing and how to use Raspberry Pi during my Build Your Own Computer Club this summer at Camp Wright.

Even more immediately, I’m unearthing a great local community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts. On April 10, Tacoma’s FabLab has graciously agreed to host an informal gathering of Pi users called a Raspberry Jam:


In the process of reaching out to potential sponsors for the event, the folks at the Pi Foundation pointed me towards C4Labs, a Tacoma based (!) group at the forefront of manufacturing cases for the Raspberry Pi:


Dustin, their owner, has agreed to sponsor, and he seems as equally passionate about sharing his work with younger learners, as well.

All this so exciting, not just for unlocking the potential for physical computing and Raspberry Pi in my life or for kids at AWS, but even more so for the energy and zeal involved in discovering new communities and learning the ropes.

Coding and computer science is hot, for sure, but I’m even more so struck by the impact of connected learning. Several months ago, I had met with Cynthia Tee, Executive Director of Seattle’s Ada Developer’s Academy,  and she echoed this sentiment, telling me that the most promising employees aren’t the ones who know x, y, or z, but the most exciting employees are the ones who are willing to learn how to navigate any system, or, the ones who are willing to open to learn how to learn new tools or use new knowledge

And the Raspberry Pi, among many other options, provides such and wonderful computing playground and a vast, supportive community to do just that.

On that note, check out one more of the Pi’s incredibly capabilities, in this TEDxNewcastle presentation by Sam Aaron:

So cool.



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The Great Exploration

A visualization of IB’s Diploma Program. Click the image for a short narrative description of the graphic.

At the center of the IB Diploma Program experience lay a trio that truly distinguishes the Diploma Program from other curricula: Theory of Knowledge (TOK); Creativity, Action, Service (CAS); and Extended Essay.

Each experience is tailored for individual students to adapt their passions and interests into action, from learning the modes of thought that are relevant for their particular pursuits (TOK) to applying their passions to benefit the world (CAS).

As librarian, I’m most excited by the Extended Essay, a 4,000 word research essay that a student may pursue in any academic area IB offers. Click here to read about recent research that points towards the Extended Essay as a project that enhances college readiness and success.

Our seniors have been working on this essay since last May, and the final drafts aren’t due until the end of January. However, I’m happy to report a diverse array of topics, interests, and passions being pursued:

*Postwar German society’s influence on the rise of Dadaism.

*How Coca-cola and Pepsi-co differ approaches in American and Indian marketplaces.

*The supermarket industry’s influence on establishing agricultural monocultures and, in turn, the collapse of the honey bee population.

*A comparative analysis of the poetics of Amari Baraka and Langston Hughes.

*An investigation of how anthropogenic sounds affect marine animals.

*”A study on bond strengths of orthodontic brackets bonded to enamel surfaces pre-conditioned with various solutions.”

This year, we have over 25 students pursuing the Extended Essay, with a super wide range of topics.

For anyone who worries inquiry-based learning lacks rigor, check out the above list of titles. Our seniors have been hitting the books, working in labs, and channeling our databases.

Or swing on by the library, and I’ll share a sampling of essays that are under development, with the permission of our writers, of course!

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Design Thinking on PBS

Design Thinking in Education is one of the most exciting derivatives of inquiry-based learning (click here for our previous explanation or here for material more thorough). In this process, learners are presented with a challenge (“How Might We Make the Library Conducive for Reading?”) before starting in on a process of empathy (“What can I learn about library users?”), problem identification (“What is really preventing the library from offering better reading spaces?”), ideating problem solutions, and creating prototypes.

The Design Thinking Process Cycle used by Stanford’s dschool. Click the image to learn more about how the dschool works.

The Design Thinking model can be applied to almost any tasks. Want to make the lunch room experience even more effective? Want to re-think the gift giving process in your family? Feel like thinking how World War I could have ended differently or what is really causing a novel’s character to react so vehemently?

As an inquiry cycle, Design Thinking is particularly unique is its focus on empathizing with a particular user and its dedication to problem identification (as opposed to just problem solving). It’s also one of the few inquiry cycles in education that’s also used by businesses (although their resources to do research and user interviews are much greater).

If you’re interested in seeing Design Thinking in action, check out this week’s PBS airing of Extreme by Design, as it offers one example of the many ways Design Thinking is being used in education today. Click here for more information, or check out the above video for a preview of the film.

Even though the episode is set to air on Wednesday, December 11th, it will be available online for two weeks after the initial showing.

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Group Process Resources


Here’s the final of our five post series on group process and collaboration. For context, here are links to the first, second, third, and fourth posts.

Collaboration is never delegation. Instead, it’s a constant negotiation between task and maintenance, between roles and goals, and between humans who want to work together to make positive impact, on each other and their tasks.  There’s still thought to be put towards this and activities and language to teach and employ, but these are a few first steps we might take to teach everyone to harness the productive tension in groups in order to accomplish our goals. Here’s my reading list, both past and present, that is helping push the very early foundations of a group dynamics curriculum that you see emerge in this series of posts. Click on each link to be directed towards a short description or the source itself.

Paradoxes of Group Life, by Kenwyn K. Smith (for learning about the central, necessary tensions in groups)

Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott (for increased knowledge and skills for conversation and collaboration)

Leadership and Design Studio’s Task-Maintenance Cards (pictured above in their prototype versions–not yet available for distribution.)

Gamestorming, by Dave Gray (for a series of ideas and activities to accelerate group process)

The University of Victoria’s Human Resources Department’s Manager’s Toolkit (for more on The Waterline Model)

The University of Pittsburgh’s Speaking Within the Disciplines (for more details on the specific functional task and maintenance roles we might adopt)

The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley and Jonathon Littman (for various group roles we might strive to fulfill)

The Six Thinking Hats, by Edward De Bono (for various group roles we might strive to fulfill)

For anyone who has studied organizational behavior, you’ll know there are even more appropriate professional and academic texts regarding organizational and behavioral management (and please! write them below in the comment section of this blog!). But, with easier reading comes faster experimentation. We won’t grow our ability to facilitate groups (or teach facilitation) but over-preparing.

Instead, drop Task-Maintenance into your next group project, see how your group takes on the language, and make an action plan from there.We’re happy to help facilitate this process (and other group tension creating and mitigating activities)

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Why Groups & Libraries?

This is the fourth post in a five post series on helping learners navigate group life. Here are the first, second, and third posts.

Why Library? 

Previously, we’ve posted on the increase in attention inquiry has received given how inquiry equips students with a process of learning that they can use to navigate ambiguous tasks. We’ve also positioned the library as a central space for inquiry, a space that’s equipped with various tools, informational resources, and places to make inquiry happen.

While it’s crucial that individuals learn how to learn through the inquiry process, it’s as important that individuals learn how to learn in groups. After all, it’s a big world and the problems are too many to rely on solo master inquirers to solve them for us. Instead, we’ll need people who are equipped to work in groups and facilitate groups masterfully as each individual brings a unique body of knowledge and skillset to aid group success. If each of our learners is pursuing individual lines of inquiry based on their interest in a particular topic, then we’ll have opportunity to team several up for a project experience so they can teach each other and learn a topic even more holistically.

I’ve always said that libraries are spaces for conversations with a text and with another person. Collaboration is just a specialized conversation the library can help facilitate.

The Co-Lab:

In fact, the Annie Wright Schools Parents’ Association was kind enough to donate funds necessary to flip the librarian’s office into the Co-Lab, a collaboration laboratory that groups in our community can book to enhance maintenance and tasks. The seating is flexible, the windows are writeable, and with a little advanced notice, it comes equipped with supplies and facilitators that can make your group fly. Attendees can learn how they might use four spatial factors to modify a room to suit their meeting’s goals. They might learn about task-maintenance, or they might learn how to use various activities and techniques to proactively encounter group challenges.

Group Life at AWS

This series of posts isn’t to say that we don’t teach collaborative skills elsewhere in school. In fact, we’ve been doing such fantastic work with teamwork for many years. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Our 4th Grade completes an entire inquiry unit on “How We Organize Ourselves,” where they explore leadership in their community and build teamwork skills that they use for the rest of the year.
  • Our 2nd grade works on team skills as they design their own team experience in their normal classrooms but also for their physical education experience.
  • Our IB Business course helps students practice team-building and team success as they develop proposals and business plans.

Of course, there are many other instances of how we help our learners learn group skills, but these are just a few of the highlights I have seen in my short term as librarian!

Next Post: Further Reading on Group Process

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Practicing Group Life

This is the third post in a five-post series on Group Life. For the first post, click here. For the second post, click here.

Today’s workshop was speedy, but it featured introductions to several techniques we might use with groups. Some will stimulate thought on how groups work. Some will be readymade for learners to use as they work on group facilitation skills. Here’s a brief description of each one and how they might align with stages of maintenance on The Waterline Model.

Prop To Y: Give a group early confidence in its ability to succeed by providing low-stakes tasks they can easily master. Prop To Y requires a set of props and a pile of notecards, each card with a verb phrase on them. Then, groups are randomly assigned a prop and a notecard and asked to answer this question: How Can You Use this Prop to Do Y. The group will have five minutes to create a plan to share with another team.

Task-Maintenance Spectrum: Groups should perform continual maintenance to understand each individual better. In the early days of a group, it’s useful to understand where each member falls on a spectrum between task and maintenance. Who cares more about how the group works together? Who cares more about getting stuff done? Arrange yourself along this spectrum (it’s not necessarily a polar choice), see where your teammates fall, and talk out why you’ve placed yourself where you have.

Roles & Goals Fishbowl:  After reviewing the Waterline Model, have one of the many groups in the room sit in the middle of the room with everyone else watching. Then, ask that group to discuss how they want to work together as a team. You can pepper that group with questions, but you should also write acts of Task and Maintenance that you witness the group performing. You might even ask others watching the interaction to do the same just so we come to an operating understanding about how to view Task and Maintenance occurring in a group. Of course, the entire conversation is pointed towards maintenance, but there are tasks that always be seen when the group will converse.

Signature Presence: How do I look/talk/act/think when I’m performing at my best in a group? How do I look/talk/act/think when I’m at my worst in a group? Your Signature Presence is your special uniqueness you bring to a group situation. By asking and answering these questions and letting your teammates know, you’ll enhance the support your group can offer you. Bill will know when Mary’s on fire and when he should stop and listen for a bit. Or, Bill might notice that something’s bothering Mary, so he’ll stop task and perform maintenance to bring Mary back to her signature presence.

Speedback: On the count of three, point to the leader in your group. Discuss. On three, point to the person you feel most comfortable with right now. Discuss. On three, point to the person you’d like to hear from next. Finger-vote: on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “beta-fish collaborate better than we do” and 5 being “we’re thoughtful, considerate all-stars!” show how you feel your group works together.

The goal of speedback is to get quick reads on how the group feels about its process. Some speedback can clarify roles and goals, while some speedback helps analyze group dynamics. Some speedback even points out the elephant in the room. Hey, the elephant is there: we might as well point it out so we work together to usher it out the door.

Johari’s Window: 

Graphic from Mindtools.com’s article, “The Johari Window: Using Self-Discovery and Communication to Build Trust.” Click the graphic to be transported to the article.

When you push this far into the Waterline Model, maintenance will dive deep, but maintenance will also become highly productive. Johari’s Window asks all group members to acknowledge what they think they know about themselves that no one else knows, what they know about themselves that they think everyone else knows, and finally, the blindspot: what others know about an individual that that individual doesn’t know. Group members should actively strive to close their blind spots in order to improve group functionality. This last one I didn’t ask the entire faculty to complete. Instead, I passed a Johari Window about myself to let faculty fill out, and I made copies of the Window in case a brave group wanted to take this next step.

We practiced several other group process techniques, and not every group practiced every single technique. However, these are a sampling of the techniques that were introduced. Some are tools that we can all implement in our group experiences, and some are experiences that ask individuals to reflect more deeply on how they operate in groups.

We ended the workshop wondering: which techniques, tools and language should we help our students adopt and use, and which techniques, tools, and language should we adults facilitate for our kids?

The Next Post: Why Library, and Why Inquiry?

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I Love Group Life. I Hate Group Life.

In the coming week, I’ll be leading a workshop on group process with our US faculty as they explore inquiry and its best practices. The Library Co-Lab will also feature its Grand Opening Event with the AWSPA. In celebration, I’ve written a series of posts on group process  and its important to inquiry and, in turn, library. In advance, I’d like to credit Greg Bamford and Ryan Burke for introducing me to many/most of the ideas and techniques expressed in this series. My experience working with the Leadership + Design Studio was invaluable for having the time/space to take risks with putting these ideas into practice. 

I love group life. I hate group life. That’s the paradoxical reaction each and every one of us face on a daily basis, and it’s one that we are too often ill-equipped to navigate.

This week, the Upper School faculty and I will be using our Late Start to demonstrate how lessons and exercises on group dynamics might be woven into inquiry-based learning. Collaborative Skills are one of many 21st Century Skills* we’re working to develop with our learners at AWS. Often, you’ll see curricula that weaves group skill growth into “Life Skills,” or you’ll even see entire courses commited to growing leadership, especially at the college or professional school levels.

However, we’re looking to find avenues to integrate that skill set as one of the core literacies we help students develop. That way, learners will see transfer: how group skills matter for any pursuit we undertake, whether it’s biology, chemistry, world studies, or business (but really, don’t we all pursue a concoction of them all?).

So, what’s up with group life? Why’s it so hard? In the week’s posts, you’ll find how the Upper School will be working through these issues and ideas on Wednesday. After all, our Upper School faculty are in the midst of their own collaborative inquiry project focused on stress, and we have an inkling there’ll be opportunity to resolve distracting group tension and raise productive group tension as we complete our own inquiry work.

Task and Maintenance

Too often, we’re left without a vocabulary with which to frame our group experiences.

To solve this problem, we’ll introduce an easy dichotomy to use with each other and also our students:

Task: the action items a group accomplishes in order to reach a goal.

Maintenance: the actions a group undergoes to maintain its harmony or functionality.

Groups perform tasks (we must do x and y), but groups also perform maintenance (how might we work best together?). Just as tasks are consistently completed and morphed by groups, maintenance needs to consistently occur, even among those groups that have been established for long periods of time.

Each participant in a group sits somewhere on a spectrum between being completely task-oriented (“I pride myself in getting stuff done”) and maintenance-oriented (“I’m always worried about how we work together on this stuff”).  Even though there are specific task-maintenance roles individuals might feel more comfortable in, everyone should learn to adopt several roles responsively, as roles can change from group to group, from project to project, or even from day to day.

Unfortunately, we all exist in environments that reward tasks, while successful maintenance is much more difficult (although possible) to identify and incentivize.

Can we stay on task? Might we stop for maintenance?

Even though we might teach such terms to those who won’t always transition into environments that also use this same language, at the very least, we’ll provide two terms that’ll help our learners step into the murkier, more ambiguous areas of group process: how might we perform maintenance to assure successful completion of tasks. Once we’re equipped with a basic, operating language of groups, we can start to take control of how we process groups. Nothing is more empowering to navigate group life than knowing terms we can attach our feelings and experiences to. Task and maintenance helps just that.

Next Post: The Waterline Model & How Maintenance (Should) Work.

*I know, I know: the term “21st Century Learning” or “21st Century Skills” can receive a bad rap: aren’t these the skills we’ve always instilled in our learners? I’ve seen “New Knowledge Skills” gaining momentum, as these allude to the skills we need to develop when we work in environments where information is easily accessed and we need to learn to navigate that increasingly complex web of information to create knowledge and action within our communities.

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Intrinsic Motivation, Inquiry, & 3rd Space

While most of his work focuses on business and employee management strategies, Daniel Pink is one thinker whose ideas about intrinsic motivation are pushing educators to enhance inquiry-based learning opportunities for all learners. His New York Times bestseller Drive offers a more comprehensive overview of motivational influences, but check out this RSAnimate video based on a talk Dan Pink gave to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts for a basic overview of the book’s findings:

Which is why educators are striving to undertake what we call Third Space curricula. We open inquiries with a learner’s set of interests and strive to overlap the learner’s interests with curricula identified by the teacher as crucial. In many ways, the dichotomy between student-centered learning and teacher-centered learning is rendered false; instead, we transition into the third space, which is learner-centered: students and teachers alike learn throughout the process.

So, how might we teach crucial chemistry and biology skills and content while starting with a group’s interest in bacon? How might we teach facets of literature with by starting with a group’s interest space travel?

It’s possible to maintain one’s sense of intrinsic motivation and maintain a curriculum that is as rigorous (if not more) than a more content-driven environment. The practices and beliefs of those striving for the Third Space make this goal quite attainable.

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What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

This year, the school community is investigating how to further our implementation of inquiry-based learning. While our Day School has championed inquiry-based learning for quite a while now, we’re looking to continue immersing ourselves in the best practices that lead to strong, interesting, authentic inquiries throughout the schools.

What is inquiry-based learning?

Inquiry-based learning situates the learner in educational experiences that enhance that learner’s process of learning.  Crucial skills for the process of learning include asking questions, developing paths to discover the answers, exploring resources, identifying useful materials, and presenting findings in appropriate manners. Each step of the process is packed with action and reflection in order for students to grow themselves as expert learners.

In inquiry environments, teachers design the educational experiences for their students and mentor them through the process, assuring that the students acquire the core skills of inquiry along with the particular content areas that are deemed necessary. Alongside learning more about particular topics and ideas, learners will essentially grow their awareness and understanding of a process they can adopt for any inquiry.

Why Inquiry?

  • The inquiry process taps a learner’s intrinsic motivation to learn by starting with a learner’s questions about a particular area or idea. Once we establish that motivation, we can mentor students as they find interest in critical areas of study.
  • Inquiry-based learning helps prepare learners for a VUCA futures. VUCA is a military and strategic leadership term for Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, and Ambiguous. With the Department of Labor’s anticipation that 65% of all elementary school students will hold jobs that have yet to be invented, our students should be as adaptable and resilient as possible.
  • Inquiry-based learning is sticky learning. When a learner starts with his or her interest and discovers the depth and complexity of that interest, that learner is far more likely to remember and recall what she’s been exposed to.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be posting even more information regarding inquiry, from the various inquiry cycles we employ at Annie Wright Schools to the scopes of inquiry we find most effective for teaching our students how to learn.