Discovering “Induction/Inquiry” processes in our midst~


Reflecting on the readings and posts throughout this interesting week of snow, power outages, and even a state of emergency being declared as a result—I have found myself thinking not only about the classroom environment, but also the context of parenting and family life in general.  The overarching question that comes to mind is: “What examples of processes involving ‘induction and inquiry’ do I see about me, and do these examples lead to effective changes in perspective”? As cited within Dell’Olio and Donk, “John Dewey said that learning is the sum of action plus reflection (1933), (2007, p. 348). This week, our family has had some time for action, but an even more significant amount of time for reflection on our recent experience surrounding my husband’s newly apparent heart condition. Speaking for myself, the impact of the previous “information overload” I have been accustomed to regarding general heart-healthy habits including diet and exercise–pales in comparison to the emergency “Inquiry-Based Learning” experience initiated on January 4th with my husband’s hospitalization for chest pain. “Discovery learning, Inquiry-Based Learning, and problem-based learning all describe students’ experiences as they grapple with a question or problem, engage in a systematic procedure to solve that problem, and communicate what they discover to others. These hands-on experiences provide the aha! moments students will remember” (p. 320). Indeed, our family has experienced aha! moments in these past two weeks—and we have communicated the findings to concerned family and friends!

Throughout the readings of both the materials and posts concerning this week’s topic of “Induction/Inquiry”, I must admit that I have had very conflicting perspectives come to mind and I see definite “pros and cons”. Like a number “fellow special educators” have noted, I too was taught that direct instruction should be the “strategy of choice” in our work with students with special needs. My experience, however, includes situations where this was not necessarily the best choice—for particular classes, as least.  In past years, while teaching Special Education English, I found that when I offered less structured approaches, allowing for more student choice—students became more engaged within the classroom setting. Although the approaches I used in my English classes were not specifically “inductive” in the strictest sense–as described within the examples in this week’s readings, it was a definite shift from my previous teaching approach—moving toward a more inductive process. Characteristics of Taba’s Inductive Model, as highlighted within Dell’Olio & Donk (2007), that were present in my approach were, “brainstorming…full group experience… (and my role as a teacher) to ask a series of questions to facilitate student thinking…” (p. 169).

I agree very much with the statement of Sara, one of my fellow classmates in this course: “I believe in having a balance in teaching and that you can have standards that need to be met but that teachers can still teach authentically”. As with so many situations in our lives—whether it be diet and exercise, or teaching strategies– moderation and balance are key concepts we must keep in mind. Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state; “Inquiry lessons can be designed around the stages of the scientific method; however, less-structured inquiries can also provide students with discovery experiences….(and) can be developed as single lesson experiences or as extended instructional units” (p. 354).

Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tracy Williams on January 25, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Several years ago I used ‘Ender’s Game” with some middle school kids. They chomped it up. Read it in one sitting – overnight. Not like a usual assignment. I love the teaching metaphor in that book. Ender needed different kinds of teachers at different stages of his development. I hadn’t really thought about how true that was until then.
    Later, in a leadership group, we read a book “Change or Die.” It was so completely stunning that I just have to mention it here as it relates to both the context of your personal and professional comments. Making change is difficult. I coach teachers about instruction in classrooms all of the time. We like to to things that we’ve done before, or that we know to work. These are the “old friend” strategies. Our students might need another approach. Of course, the arbiter is data (another whole course…)
    Give this book a look:
    No matter what, Laurie, keep using that incredible mind that you have!


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