Inquiry based learning isn’t exactly a new concept in education, and arguably has been done throughout the ages. My own classroom practice incorporates inquiry based learning. What Trevor MacKenzie has done with Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice is give teachers a clearly explained guide to bringing inquiry into your classroom. This book will appeal to novice and experienced teachers alike, as they can easily conceptualize or reimagine their own classroom inquiry framework. What educators will especially appreciate is a recognition for meeting curriculum requirements, time restraints, and the day-to-day demands of life in a school. The model explained in Dive Into Inquiry is realistic, and will give teachers the confidence that they can trigger student curiosity, and successfully implement inquiry based learning in their practice. MacKenzie even includes his own hand-drawn graphics that give a nice visual explanation of his framework, which can be shared with students. The book is also littered with excellent, real-life examples. Dive Into Inquiry author Trevor MacKenzie practices what he preaches.
As the book’s subtitle suggests, learning and student voice are central. Trevor MacKenzie’s approach begins with building the right environment, one that establishes trust and gives students some measure of classroom control, and hence more control over their learning. This includes giving some measure of input into course curriculum. Students are primed to understand inquiry based learning and what the coming school year will look like, as opposed to jumping into their own inquiry straight away. MacKenzie clearly describes four “Types of Inquiry”, and how to move from one to the next, building student understanding and confidence as the year progresses. (structured inquiry, controlled inquiry, guided inquiry, and free inquiry) Ultimately, by the end of the year students will have the experience, skills, and confidence to take on Free Inquiry.
MacKenzie breaks the process down further with his “Four Pillars of Inquiry”. These acknowledge key elements of inquiry: exploring a passion, setting goals, delving into curiosities, and taking on new challenges. These are clearly student centered, and highly motivating. Dive Into Inquiry gives us a framework for success. The reader is offered strategies that help students develop questioning techniques, a Free Inquiry Proposal, and research strategies. Constant reflection on the learning process is an important element. Another key piece to the framework is creating an “authentic piece” - a demonstration of student learning. Here again, students have control over how they will demonstrate their learning, with teacher support. For myself, the final step is golden - a public display of understanding, which MacKenzie cleverly refers to as an Inquiry Open House, giving students a truly authentic audience for their authentic piece. The open house wraps up a highly personal, motivating learning process that reaches out to the community beyond the classroom. Simply brilliant.