Last week I wrote about my experiences first identifying my wicked problem and then constructing a survey to gather data about it. To recap, my wicked problem is: Re-imagining the baking curriculum as inquiry-based, driven by student questions, and engaging for all learners. My survey began with a question about the respondent’s knowledge of inquiry-based learning. This question helped to identify the respondents who didn’t have any understanding of the topic vs. those who were well versed in it. You can see below that 22% of the respondents were unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning.
I was concerned at first that this might cause an issue, with suggestions given that didn’t apply to the topic. However, while some of the responses directly related to the workings of inquiry-based learning were a bit off topic, responses to more general issues were quite useful. For example, one respondent who was unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning left a few of the specific questions unanswered but gave an excellent suggestion for engaging the hard to engage students.
The next bit of the survey that has been gathering interesting data is the question about how to generate “Big Questions.” I was actually quite torn with how to construct “Big Questions” in my classroom, but this has solidified for me the way they should be created.
I was surprised by this data. I didn’t expect it to be unanimous especially since some of the respondents were unfamiliar with inquiry-based learning.
The most useful data so far has been from the open-ended questions. Such as this one about how to teach students to ask better questions.
I found it most interesting that one of the respondents suggested the Question-Formulation Technique which I have been recently reading. This technique has three parts “Produce Your Own Questions, Improve Your Questions, and Prioritize Your Questions” (Rothstein & Santana, p 25). It was a relief to have my current knowledge and understanding reinforced by someone who has used inquiry-based learning in their classroom.
I also felt that the suggestion to model examples of questions or demonstrate how to ask good questions was quite helpful. I keep going back and forth in my own understanding on when to teach the students how to ask higher level questions. Since my role during the inquiry-based learning is as facilitator or guide, I shouldn’t be guiding their questions during the inquiry. This comment helped to solidify for me that we should practice the skill of constructing questions BEFORE our first inquiry-based unit. The following youtube video is a useful learning tool to start with.
Not only does it show students the different levels of questions but it tells them which level of questions they should be crafting for an inquiry-based unit. After watching the video, the students can practice writing questions about a practice topic.
When I crafted the survey, I added a question about discouraging students from asking questions. The question had a specific purpose. It would help me gather data about a problem I read about and found troubling. Some teachers discourage questioning because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Others because there isn’t enough time to cover all of the required curricula if they veer off in search of answers. This is unfortunate because “as kids stop questioning, they simultaneously become less engaged in school” (Berger, p 45)
As you can see from the data above this question garnered a range of responses. I’m glad in retrospect that I followed it up with the next question, which helps to clarify the initial responses.
I am relieved to see that more than half of the respondents strongly disagree or disagree with discouraging students from asking questions. It is unfortunate that some teachers are unable to give up that bit of control over the classroom and be in a supportive rather than controlling role.
Overall, the initial data is encouraging and has helped me to construct some solutions to my wicked problem, as described above. I’m looking forward to gathering the remaining data.
Barker, Kelsey. “Instant Inquiry: Level1, 2, and 3 Questions.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j6BM002ksk.
Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Rothstein, D & Santana, L (2011). Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.