RE: inquiry based learning

Subject: RE: inquiry based learning
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 1996 10:20:07 -0500 (EST)

Dear Verl,
Sorry for the tardy reply, but I've been sick in bed and am still home today.
Since we all would like to encourage critical thinking and an attitude of
cooperative, scientific investigation in our classes, I think this topic is
quite important. If I may,
I would like to point  out the importance of preparing students
psychologically for  any challenges they might encounter.  More on that below.
To begin, I agree with you completely when you say:

> But I think we need to be very careful in our 
>response to the errors we see.  It seems that each presentation should be
>followed by a question and discussion period where the teacher and other
>students in the audience can raise questions about uncertainties or
>perceived errors.  The presentors should be given time to research and
>answer those questions that cannot be immediately answered - in a follow-up 
>presentation perhaps.  We must be very careful in setting ourselves up as
>"the authority" with a "no, that's wrong" approach."

I think you are absolutely correct, a questioning attitude should always be

 >Guide them to further clarifying research when there are questions.  Have
>them back up their
>questioned assertions with references or data - they could turn out to be
>right.  What does cause 'the tides on both sides of the world'?"

Yes, Verl, and that would be great.

>This approach to learning teaches them far more than just the facts (which
>may be wrong) it teaches them how to find answers on their own and to
>question the answers they find.  Students should be given the opportunity
>to be critical listeners and readers.  This is especially true with the
>info-overload the wwweb brings to us."

Regarding telecommunications and the WEB:

Verl, since you mention the info-overload on the wwweb....      
Just a few comments from an old "special ed. " teacher used to dealing with
extremely sensitive students.  (It has been my experience that students in
the mainstream classes can be EQUALLY sensitive.) I'm not in special ed. now.

With regard to the value of student debate, I agree with you wholeheartedly;
however, I feel that great care should be exercised to protect the feelings
of students who may be too immature to accept questioning of their conclusions.
In preparation for the publishing of material, I think it should be
explained to students that there may possibly be divergent opinions and that
the goal of debate is to search for the truth, therefore any questions
should not be taken as a "personal affront," or a "put down"  but merely as
an attempt to arrive at a correct conclusion in a cooperative manner.

In sight of the new technology, I think this is particularly true with
regard to publishing work on the web, a VERY PUBLIC forum, this kind of
opens them up for disagreement if their material  isn't corrected first by
the teacher.  There may well be students who feel obliged to question when
they feel something is incorrect, (and they should have this right, we want
to encourage this)   and some kids, particularly younger ones, might be
extremely sensitive if they are corrected in "public."  I strongly feel all
questions/challenges should be carefully screened by the teacher and
presented in the most positive, supportive manner possible.   A positive
spin can be put on any challenge and thereby  protect fragile egos.

   If the forum does not permit question screening by the teacher, then it
is even more  important that they be prepared ahead of time to expect
divergent opinions from other students and develop a "positive" attitude
toward challenges.

  It is one thing  to have hard earned conclusions questioned or challenged
by a familiar teacher or classmate and quite another to be challenged by an
"outsider."  There could always be a possible element of humiliation
involved in the latter, in my humble opinion.  Perhaps I am being
overprotective, but I think it is better to err on the side of caution. <smile>I
  Although all of this might seem to be obvious, unfortunately it can still
be overlooked in the heat of classroom activities, and students can be
presumed to be psychologically "tougher"
than they really are. 

 Public debate can be a two edged sword, and there can be no sincere,
cooperative search for the truth if hurt feelings get in the way. This could
lead to nothing more than defensive posturing, far from our goal.
Especially as PTK teachers, we want to encourage educational debate
enthusiastically whenever possible, and have been doing so successfully over
the course of  many projects now.

Must go now,  I think it's definitely time for a couple more aspirins.
Have a good day.   Barb