Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content

As per the the two previous summaries I have posted today, I urge you to read this article by Thom Markham (Thom contributes to a blog called Mind/Shift which is really worth having a look at). Once again the issues raised will be familiar to all DEBsters from a point of view of inquiry-based learning. Here is a flavour of what Thom says:

REDEFINE RIGOR. As the Google-age fully blossoms, the fundamental shift is from information to attitude. The instant, ubiquitous availability of knowledge puts enormous responsibility on the individual, as they try to sift through, discern, apply, and share information.

BLEND CRITICAL THINKING, SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING, AND OTHER VALUABLE SKILLS. In the search for better inquiry methods, the gaming industry has much to teach education.

TEACH INQUIRY SKILLS. Creativity, problem-solving, design thinking, and critical analysis are learnable skills that benefit from intentional instruction. The options are many, starting with exercises in creativity and brainstorming, regular use of protocols to practice sharing and giving feedback on divergent ideas.

MAKE COHORTS AND TEAMS THE PRACTICE, NOT THE EXCEPTION. Probably the most deeply embedded norm of industrial education, originating from the 15th century, is the ideal of the individual scholar. The default mode is to aim teaching at a single student, and assess and recognize accomplishments gained through individual performance. But we must shift this towards team learning.

SEE THE BALANCE BETWEEN INQUIRY AND CONTENT AS A DYNAMIC. Knowing when to teach directly, or allow for problem solving, is a high art. But that is what inquiry-based education demands.

THE CIRCLE OF CONTROL. The chief obstacle to an inquiry-based system is us. To give up a content-based curriculum, with its deep traditions, proven techniques for controlling behavior and outcomes, and dominating, standardized regimen, feels like giving a 14-year old the keys to the car and a full tank of gas. It’s scary.