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Paul Grobstein's picture

a few thoughts from the inquiry mini-symposium

Thanks all for a rich conversation this morning. Among the things that stick in my mind is Rita Stevens' story of a successfully persisting in adapting the "system" over many years to her own sense of what makes sense, and Syreeta Bennett's story of recognizing the need after one year in the classroom to fit the curriculum to her student's needs. We do of course all work under cultural pressures (yes, even "tenured" faculty), but in the last analysis it is our classrooms and we are part (not a trivial part) of what makes cultures. Maybe next year's mini-symposium should focus on the broader socio-cultural contexts in which we work, both how they influence/constrain us and how we might influence them? I, for one, would like to talk/think more about the notion that "inquiry education" might be not a luxury for the well off but a more effective and cost efficient way to empower everyone and hence relevant not only as a superior form of teaching but also as a way to impact on existing socio-cultural inequities. Thanks to Victoria for being sure this issue was out in the open.

I was interested also, of course, in what seemed to me the majority position that inquiry education should "complement" rather than replace traditional "transmission" educational methods, and think that worth talking about more. I'm not persuaded, for example, that disciplinary problems are greater with inquiry education; my guess is that they would be less if one took it seriously and made it a full time activity instead of a break from .... things kids don't like. Nor that it is "harder" for a teacher; my own experience is it is actually easier and certainly more fun. And I'm not, obviously, persuaded that "cultural" factors should be the dominant basis of deciding what educational methods to employ (or objectives to have). Lots of interesting issues, to think/talk more about. At a minium, though, it seems to me that we had a pretty strong consensus that "scripting" was neither good for teachers nor for students.

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