Inquiry at F.P.S- Teachers Plan Mini-Inquiries

The staff had a great day of learning with Kath Murdoch. Footscray Primary has been on an exciting journey with Kath over the past three years. The day began with tuning into strategies of how we embed inquiry into all our practices in the classroom. The staff started the year reflecting on how learning looks in their classroom. Are we developing a classroom culture of inquirers? Where are we on the table below?

Traditional (teacher centred learning) vs  Inquiry (student and learning centred)

Traditional Inquiry based Learning
Means of Learning Receiving information/ memorisation Investigation, analysis and reflection
Evidence of Learning Replication Explanation, transfer, creative application
Motivation External/ rewards based Personal, goal oriented, authentic
Attitudes Compliant, passive Curious, questioning, active
Relationships Dependent, one-way, arm’s length Connected, independent, warm
Contexts School/ classroom- not authentic Community – Local/global

If I examine the traditional column this reminds me of my own schooling experience in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We copied information from the board and every child in the classroom did the same work and we then replicated what the teacher showed us.

The table above highlights the following about learning at our school:

We know our students well and what point of learning they are at. This enables us to personalise the learning so it is just right for them.

  • Inquiry is not saying to our students go away and find out and leaving them to it without the teacher being a facilitator/ coach. We are teaching the skills they need to find out and go further with their learning. The children can talk about what it means to be a researcher and set personal goals around the essential ‘learning how to learn’ skills.
  • Inquiry into the six themes each year requires our children to learn facts to build understanding of concepts. Question, questions and more questions is the focus of inquiry.
  • We want learning to be authentic so the children understand the importance of learning knowledge and skills so they can build understandings. This means the context for learning is vital. The context helps our students understand the purpose behind the learning.

Without encouraging our children to question so they are curious and active learners. I believe without these elements then learning would be dry and disconnected. It is exciting when we are in control of our learning and we do have those ‘A-ha’ moments in life. Most importantly learning never stops.

Exciting Developments for me from the day

  1. Kath modelled to staff, how we can develop mini-inquiries so students can investigate and develop a deep understanding of the transdisciplinary skills of learning- being a communicator, researcher, thinker and self-manager. Through these mini-inquiries the students will build an understanding of the what, how and why of these vital life-long learning skills. The Foundation students will investigate ‘active listening’ in their next unit of inquiry. What does it mean to be an active listener?
  2. Some great ideas of how we could support our families to develop an understanding of inquiry.
  3. Ways we can move inquiry into teaching of numeracy and literacy.

A Tool kit for Learning- Learning for Living

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A Tool kit for Learning- Learning for Living

This is my first Blog post. Being a achool that implements the Primary Years Programme, inquiry learning is central to our philosophy at Footscray Primary School. Our new strategic plan has been launched and the next four years will be exciting times at our school. A copy of this plan can be found on our website so I encourage all families and members associated within our community to familiarise yourselves with this. I am passionate about the P.Y.P as it values the how of learning. This matches closely to our vision and that we want all of our students to develop a tool kit to support them to be life-long learners.

Building the skills for lifelong learning is central to our purpose of our school. At Footscray Primary School we believe ‘Learning for living’. This means what children learn at school transfers into knowledge, skills and understandings they will be able to use throughout their lives. Teachers at F.P.S also live this vision of the school.

I often talk to our teachers about the vision that when our students leave  Footscray Primary School,  they leave with a tool kit of life-long learning skills. What is inside this tool kit? What would you as parents like to see inside this tool kit? Also what skills and strategies need to be inside to support our students to be 21st Century learners?

The Primary Years Programme has a focus on those capabilities that students need to be able to demonstrate to succeed in a changing and challenging world. In our units of inquiry students are taught skills to be effective communicators, researchers, self-managers of their learning and thinkers.  We are currently in the process of organising a scope and sequences of these skills and identify what is essential for us to know and be able to do.

This week Kath Murdoch spent another day with our teams across the school, modelling inquiry lessons. She also presented a workshop after school to our staff and 40 visitors from other schools about the tool kit for inquiry. This was a great opportunity to showcase the great work our teachers are doing with the teaching of these skills.

One great strategy our students in Year 5 and 6 were using last week to help them set purposeful goals around self-managing their learning. Students were given a list of specific skills and had to categorise them under four different headings. These headings were time management, informed choices, organisation and safety. They matched the skills to these headings and then used this list to set personal SMART goals.

In the Year One classroom this week Kath modelled a lesson to our teachers.  During the lesson the students had to think about two questions:

  1. What does creative thinking feel like?
  2. How can we listen well to each other’s ideas?

The students were given visual prompts and a key that promoted a type of creative thinking. For example ‘What if houses were made of chocolate?’ The reflection time focused with the students sharing their responses to the above questions. As you walk around our school there are lots of evidence of how these skills are taught explicitly to ensure thinking is made visible for our students.