This was the question many teachers have asked after viewing some innovative Kindergarten practice including changes to to learning environment and changes to teaching pedagogy.
As educators, we need to be able to
To help some of you get started, below is an overview of the project approach to learning which is taken from Reggio Emilia. This may help stimulate the thinking process for making innovative, creative change to your teaching practice in the early years.
It is NOT about excluding explicit, systematic teaching. It IS about having a teaching pedagogy that includes a variety of teaching and learning strategies that best suit the learning needs of your students.There is a place for both
1. systematic instruction in skills students need to learn
2. investigative approach to USE these skills in another context.
Read more about this at The Project Approach link.
he inquiry approach really focuses on the HOW we learn/find out rather then just focusing on content. It is concerned with acquiring the skills of learning.
The approach is centred around finding possible solutions to a problem. In other words, investigating a question posed.
Often the teacher is the questioner. With the Inquiry approach, the students are encouraged to ask the questions. The teacher can assist with this by scaffolding the questioning process through modelling provocative open questions that require are reflective in nature.
Image from Dorling Kindersley - free clipart for Teachers
Year 1 at Regents Park investigated life cycles by following the progress of chickens hatching in their classroom. They kept a hatchery in their room for the term and the main question they wanted answered was what is the life cycle of an egg? Not just the chicken!!!
This topic evolved from the HSIE/Science focus which was on investigating "Living Things" and lifecycles. This complemented the work in English on writing Explanation texts and learning the language features of that text.
The Year 1 teachers began this real world investigations approach by using EKWQ...
Firstly the teachers wanted to find out about the experiences of the students - what they already knew about the topic.
In first week or so of the inquiry approach, the students
The teacher's role is to support the use of a variety of investigative and representational strategies. S/he also has a special responsibility to probe the children to reflect on their experiences and explain them.
The Year 1 teachers at Regents Park started each week with an "I wonder .." question probe. Out of the wondering comes the desire to question. This lead to the year 1 students wanting to know, among other things, what the chicken looked like as it began to grow inside the egg. Their question was
The children began to predict and develop theories about what might happen inside the egg. The teachers guided the children to think about the various ways to test their hypotheses. The children decided that they needed to bring in an egg from home and see what was inside by using the class digital microscope.
They took photos of the egg under the microscope and investigated the properties of an egg. They labelled the photos using technical language like "germinal disc".
They also interviewed the person who brought the hatchery into their rooms. This information was recorded by the teacher and the students.
The teachers located books, posters, internet pages and other materials to help the children's research.
They revisited their hypotheses and started to draw what they think would happen as the egg turned into a chicken. This was shared with others.
Over the weeks other questions were asked as they found out more.
More questions emerged....so the investigation grew...
Because the children were asking the questions, they were highly motivated to investigate and find the answers.
Meanwhile they kept observing the eggs in the hatchery each day, observing and recording the changes.
The children chose a variety of ways to record and present their findings.
"Following the lead of children is a meaningful way of learning with children. It is a strategy embedded in interactive teaching approaches—methods which rely on thoughtful educators who listen carefully to children and who respond respectfully to their questions, statements and concerns. It is a powerful approach because it uses child-generated ideas as the catalyst for learning, ensuring that children are already interested and motivated in their inquiries."
Teacher and researcher
Wiradjuri Preschool Child Care, ACT
More on the Inquiry approach.
Curriculum resources for the early years at edna. Take a look!
Also find early years resources for Indigenous education at edna.
"Children are creators, thinkers and problem solvers - and use a variety of media to physically, aesthetically and creatively express themselves."
National quality framework for early childhood education and care: a discussion paper.According to an article by Lilian G. Katz, it is
Ultimately, the aim to to learn more about the topic rather than focusing on finding all the right answers.(We have tagged it the Inquiry Approach but it is also known as the Project Approach.)
Good question! Many teachers worry that syllabus outcomes are "at risk" of being lost. The inquiry approach can be A PART OF the approach already taken by teachers when planning and programming the curriculum. It is NOT an approach used instead of the curriculum.
If you think about how you currently integrate the curriculum by working across KLAs, the inquiry approach can be incorporated by
This gives children the opportunity to apply many skills that have been EXPLICITLY taught while investigating, for instance, an area in Science or HSIE.
An important feature of the Inquiry approach is that children
In other words, children ask questions that guide the investigation and make decisions about the activities to be undertaken.
Typically at the start of a unit, as teachers we often ask the children "What do you know?" and "What do you want to find out?" Do we really listen to what they have to say? Do we let them decide HOW they will find the answers to their questions?
KLA topics for ES1 and S1 can focus on real phenomenon that children can investigate through a variety of hands-on experiences. They can draw children's attention to questions such as: How do things work? What do people do? and What tools do people use?
Learning tasks that children can engage in during the inquiry approach may include
The information gathered is summarized and represented in the form of
Remember that it can always look different in every classroom. The needs of your students will determine your teaching pedagogy. But here is a framework which might help you get started!
Primary Connections is a Science resource produced by the Federal government that links to state syllabus documents.
It uses an approach whereby student's questions become the focus for investigation and the basis for developing scientific explanations. Students are encouraged and supported to produce their understandings in a variety of ways. Small group collaborative learning is the cornerstone of this approach.
Teacher plans following lessons to build on prior knowledge and questions raised.
We know that young children learn best through meaningful, interactive, inquiry-based learning. The question many educators ask is "Can we still meet the syllabus outcomes with this approach?" This article clearly demonstrates how well-planned active learning can meet set standards in education. It also cites a variety of current research that supports this claim. A great read!
Early Childhood Research and Practice has the following articles linked to the inquiry (project0 approach.
Dynamic Aims: The Use of Long-term Projects in Early Childhood Classrooms in Light of Dewey' s Educational Philosophy
Linking Standards and Engaged Learning in the Early Years