Inquiry-Based Learning in English Classrooms
When our school district in Ontario informed us that we would be continuing remote learning until the end of the semester, I turned to inquiry-based learning because I knew it would be the most student-focused and engaging assignments I could focus on to rekindle some kind of life in my English language arts students (IBL).
The IBL initiatives were a resounding success when all was said and done. In one student’s English class for the ninth grade, the percentage of students who received failing grades dropped from one third to only two. The format of the unit, which was centred on conferences, resonated strongly with the students, and for the first time, it appeared that they were enjoying our time together. My IBL efforts were like a last-ditch effort, yet they were successful.
All of the skills that are covered in the English curriculum, including reading, writing, oral communication, and media, are excellent candidates for inquiry-based learning projects. In addition, the participants develop their sense of personal responsibility, abstract thought, organisational skills, and the ability to work together.
IBL AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS
In the English classroom, IBL projects consist of five steps: project proposal, research and learning, creating or doing, reflecting and sharing the results of the project. The skill and level of your pupils, in addition to the subjects that you might want to direct their attention toward, as well as the procedures outlined here, are highly changeable. The projects can have an emphasis on more teacher-directed subjects or more general issues that are student-centered (for example, an inquiry question) (e.g., understanding the world and language of Shakespeare).
Interdisciplinary group work (IBL) projects are a strategy that teachers should attempt to employ as a way of engaging students in active learning, while at the same time becoming the guides on the side. This should be the case regardless of the degree of inquiry.
STEP 1: PROJECT PROPOSAL
Make it possible for students to design their focus questions and projects through the use of a project proposal. The following are two examples from earlier classes: How difficult is it to set together a personal computer? What are some of the most helpful fitness applications for young adults?
At this point of the course, I usually give a series of short lessons about how to ask effective questions, and I also talk about the process of generating my own probable IBL project questions by completing my own project proposal. The question “How can I train middle blockers at the high school level more effectively?” is one that I frequently use as an illustration from my experience as a coach.
I have a conversation about their ideas with each of them individually, and we iron out any flaws that may exist. If after a few of days the students still do not have a plan, I will begin working with them from the very beginning to steer them in a direction that will provide them with some level of engagement and purpose.
STEP 2: RESEARCH AND LEARNING
The next step is the research and learning phase, which fits beautifully into any language curriculum. Mini-lessons on proper research techniques, bias, gathering and documenting sources, etc., can take place at a grade- and skill-appropriate level in this phase. The final step is the presentation of the findings.
Provide students with guidelines for the quantity of sources and the types of sources that are suitable for their assignment, as well as specifics surrounding the documentation of material and sources. I frequently provide my students with a straightforward handout that is designed to assist them in organising material and guide them through the process of documenting sources using a website such as Citation Machine.
The teachers should have a discussion with the pupils once more, helping them identify or evaluate sources.
STEP 3: CREATING OR DOING
IBL projects are distinct from more conventional research programmes in this regard. Request from the students that they either create something, experience something, or do something with the knowledge they have gained. The beauty of IBL projects in English language arts is that the project topic and the tangible product do not need to have anything to do with English class in order to be considered appropriate. It is the process that effectively represents numerous ELA curricular goals, such as listening and/or reading and summarising, documenting and assessing research sources, writing, and a variety of other activities. During the most recent semester, I had one student construct a bicycle out of old parts, another student make a Twitter account of instapoetry, and a third student attempt to construct a mechanical heart.
Once again, conferring is a key element of this step since many students will need guidance from the teacher in order to determine what options are available in terms of a “action” portion of their project.
STEP 4: REFLECTING
Students will be asked to reflect on their approaches, research, actions, and next steps as part of this level of the IBL project. This procedure can be carried out in a number of different ways. Whether it’s a writing assignment, a media product, or an oral communication presentation, I make it a point to centre my attention on the medium on something I need to evaluate for my course.
I provide my students with a bulleted list of elements that they should complete as a part of their reflective process, regardless of the medium of communication they choose to use:
Talk about the central subject of your project and explain why you choose the topic you did or why it was significant to you as a student.
Consider going over the research you did in relation to the central topic, as well as the findings that stood out to you as the most significant or fascinating.
Describe how you used your research to create an experience or action, as well as the steps you took to generate that experience and the outcome it produced.
Think about whether or not you consider the project you worked on to be a success, and consider what, if anything, you may have done differently had you the chance.
What are the next steps that you will take with reference to your project?
Will you keep working on figuring out the answer to your driving issue or on some other part of that topic?
STEP 5: SHARING AND ASSESSMENT
The final phase of the IBL project requires students to present their whole project to their instructor, their classmates, and/or the public at large in the form of a video, post, or website that is published on social media platforms.
Once again, depending on the ages of the students, the skill levels of the students, or the needs of the teacher regarding assessments, students can complete this step of sharing the project overview in a variety of ways, including writing (by creating a written report), media (by creating a video or infographic), oral communication (by conferring with their teacher), or a combination of all three (a multimedia project overview).
FINAL STEP: REAP THE REWARDS
Since I began implementing IBL projects into my language arts classes almost ten years ago across a variety of grade levels (ranging from seventh to twelfth), I have never once been dissatisfied with the outcomes. Students consistently comment to me that this is their favourite element of the curriculum we are studying together.
Make it your own, and give it a try. Reading, writing, oral communication, and media are the four key strands that make up any English Language Arts (ELA) course. You will reap the rewards of student engagement, project completion, and the sneaky assessment of a variety of language curriculum expectations associated with these four key strands.