Inquiry takes time. This has been a recurring theme, and one we have discussed at length, in our math/science class over the past few months. If we want students to become proficient in any aspect of their learning, or life for that matter, we must give them time. Time to wrestle with challenging issues. Time to celebrate small successes. Time to learn from mistakes. Time to listen to each other and time to grow. When we rush kids through the learning process we deny them the necessary foundational blocks needed to develop into successful, self-directed learners. The curriculum is filled with content and at times can seem overwhelming. If we focus on “covering” each strand, then we lose sight of the big picture. By pushing through the curriculum, we change the focus from being student centered to teacher centred. This is not to say that the curriculum is not an important document. It is. However, as a professional, I see it as my responsibility to carefully read through the curriculum and determine what are the “need to know”, “nice to know” and “worth being familiar with” components – a model based on Wiggins and McTighe research.
We discovered through our recent Science inquiry into decomposition, that in order for kids to demonstrate depth of understanding, we need to be on their schedule, not ours. We have invested hours of work into building background knowledge, conducting research, experimenting in the science lab, and finally documenting the entire learning process. Now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we have been struggling with wanting to wrap things up.
But the learning process can’t always be wrapped up in nice, neat, little packages. Just because we want to move on, doesn’t mean our students are ready to. Listening to their voices and actually internalizing what they are saying (or not saying) has caused us to rethink our desire to “keep on keeping on”. Taking that little bit of extra time to really listen has helped us realize how much our students are learning about being true scientists, mathematicians, technologists, writers, producers, artists, and more. They are also developing strengths and skills as collaborators, problem solvers, critical thinkers, reflective thinkers, and they are increasingly able to interpret all different kinds of data in order to create meaning. These curious and confident nine-year-olds prove to us everyday that being committed to the goal of learning and inquiring is far more important than being able to recall mundane facts that will be forgotten the moment they step out of our room at the end of June. We are hopeful that the skills, competencies, and attitudes that our students will be leaving with will serve them well as they venture into higher grades. Effectively developing these simply wouldn’t be possible without time.
Professor Lilliane McDermott further emphasizes this point. She states, “Meaningful learning…requires that students be intellectually active… To be able to transfer a skill learned in one context to another, students need multiple opportunities to use that same skill in different contexts. The entire process requires time”.
McDermott, L. (1993). How we teach and how students learn: A mismatch? American Journal of Physics, 61(4). University of Washington.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)