One of the challenges of moving from the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) to the Primary Years Programme (PYP) has been the amount of jargon to get my head around,
Trans-disciplinary themes, the learner profile, essential elements, approaches to learning.
On one level I have enjoyed attaching language to learning processes and things I’ve done in the classroom past.
Yet I found myself frustrated by the language.
Planning seemed more like negotiating a minefield of jargon. While many aspects of the Primary Years Programme were directly transferable from my previous teaching experience, I longed for the New Zealand Curriculum’s simplicity and bias towards action.
One of the problems was this notion of an inquiry ‘cycle.’ I often see Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle hanging up in PYP classrooms as the gold standard of inquiry learning looking a little something like this.
Nice, neat and clean. It looks like a sequential recipe. Something that must be adhered to or the cake won’t rise.
I can see why.
Teachers love lists.
Lists help us plan, they help us measure process.
In short they make our lives easier.
The problem with slavishly following a linear model is that it can replace the complex nuances of inquiry with compliance.
Tuning in becomes something ‘done’ to children to get them to the next stage rather than something teachers and children do together. The textbooks and worksheets might be gone – yet by rigidly following this model over time units of inquiry gradually stale and predictable.
Paint by numbers learning.
But is paint by numbers art?
Is that why I was getting annoyed when my nice, neat plans got ‘messed up’ by changes to school schedules or the elaborate summative assessment tasks the children were completing?
There were a couple of times last year where it was time to start the next unit and the kids hadn’t taken any meaningful action.
Did I fail to heed an important lesson?
What is relegated to the bottom of the planner becomes the first thing that gets squeezed out of the schedule when we are short of time.
By leaving taking action until last, the children were learning language and concepts without having any idea about how to meaningfully apply their learning to their daily lives.
Inquiry without action is the equivalent of teaching artistic techniques without once letting a child pick up a crayon.
I know from my own learning that I ask questions and investigate when I learn. But I also make mistakes, re-think, start over as I construct meaning. Inquiry by its very nature is iterative. I should be making slight tweaks to process through each engagement not following the same recipe unit after unit.
It wasn’t until I read from the this blog post from Kath herself that I realised that this model didn’t needed to be followed. I realised I needed to re-think how I was applying this model to the classroom.
I love the idea of thinking as the inquiry model as colours on an artist’s palette.
Paints are tools for artists to perform their understanding of the world.
We don’t demand that artists paint in a certain order to create a painting. Artists don’t use all of the colours available to them, just the ones necessary. Moreover, artists combine the colours available to them to create more colours.
Why not take action to tune in?
Let the children sort out as the teacher tunes in.
I like to think of inquiry as a Jackson Pollock painting.
From afar it might look random splotched canvas but if you look closely, intricate patterns reveal themselves to show the beauty for those who take the time to really look.