Learning from Inquiry

Final Assignment Due – EDUC454D100 – August 8, 2017

Today is the last, last day of EDUC454D100… meaning, it was the first day in 14 weeks I did not commute out to SFU to teach this class… and, it’s the last day for my students to hand in their final assignment (aka. their quantitative inquiry project or unit plan). I took a break from my oral defence preparation today to commit my time and headspace to read and evaluate these assignments. One by one, they are being submitted. They had until midnight to hand it in… well, the results surprised me.

Admittedly, this was a tricky assignment. Best results would have come from those who started this assignment early in the course… and they were encouraged to. Last minute inquiries or those who opted for no consultation lent itself to a difficult situation for my students such that they would not achieve what I would like them to learn or engage in the assignment because they themselves have not engaged in inquiry before. I wanted to personalized their learning, not a cookie-cutter assignment for my students to complete. Why would I want to read 26 papers of the same thing? I would not. As anticipated, I received a wide variety of inquiry projects.

Project topics ranged from plastic in oceans, measuring light, a vegan diet, to community gardens. My initial thought with the final project stemmed from my understanding of experiential learning. You can’t teach something you’ve never experienced. If we are asking pre-service teachers to teach with inquiry-based learning with BC’s New Curriculum, then they should engage in inquiry based learning. I started this class with Stage 4 Inquiry; they could study any topic they would like with an inquiry question they composed. As we moved forward with the assignment, I would scaffold when needed. From this learning experience, I hoped that my students would glean on some ideas and transfer them to their teaching practice.

As time went on, I realized that many of my students were not comfortable with the idea of inquiry because they have never experienced it before, some were asking questions that were TOO BIG for the length of the course, and some required ethics approval to use human participants for their inquiries of minimal risk. Furthermore, I had several students who wanted to investigate Indigenous worldviews and ways and that had stricter limitations. I had to make adaptations. So instead of a personal inquiry, some students could choose to do a unit plan. Personally, I thought that the unit plan would be more difficult to achieve but I wanted to give an option.

Final assessments ache me… truly. As much as I want everyone to personalize their learning and every project that submitted have been very different from each other… the level of inquiry varied… and what was learned varied. Moreover, the clock struck midnight and not all of my students handed something in. Truth be told, all of them had passed the course before the final assignment but I had hoped that all would be willing to accept the challenge of inquiry as a learner to inform their practice as a teacher. Some students rose to the challenge while others fell short. Not only did I get a diverse set of final assignments, I also had a diverse set of outcomes.

Some assignments made me giggle (in a good way)… some made me wonder… and others just wowed me. I have to remind myself that we all have strengths. Some of us are better face-to-face in discussion. Some of us are better at reading and reflection. Some like to perform while others can synthesize their thoughts eloquently as a final paper or exam. I will admit, it agonizes me to differentiate my students by grading. A part of me wants them to be all the same, but I understand that this is the end of the course and the final assignment was a an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in the course and from inquiry. In the end, I am happy to hear my students enjoyed the course. Many of them shared that with me. For that, I am grateful.

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