My life so far has been an interesting journey, following many fresh paths with wildly varying results. Sometimes I think that the only constant in my life is change, but then I realise that I am incessantly curious, on a continuous quest for innovative ideas and interesting new experiences- some great, some great learning experiences. After a youth full of following interesting paths I came to teaching in my 30s and have worked in state, catholic and independent schools from Cairns to Sydney; in a Chinese high school as a guest of the Chinese Government supporting teachers to embrace more creative teaching and learning; as a teacher-librarian and literacy coach; and now as a gifted and talented coordinator P-12.
I am very much a social constructivist, hence the Goldilocks theme. Students in my classes have learned to explain their Zone of Proximal Development in terms of Goldilocks – “not too hard, not too easy, just right”. Learning has always been a passion, and ensuring that all learners are given the opportunity to learn at their own Goldilocks level is a very large part of that. My undergraduate research project looked at providing for the learning needs of gifted young children in the mainstream classroom and my journey has always included an interest in gifted education, including studying at UNSW for a Certificate of Gifted Education, and at Stanford online with Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler to investigate how to encourage my gifted students to develop a growth mindset in the face of numbing perfectionism.
But what do I know about inquiry learning? I have played with it, attracted by its learner centred, open ended structure. Year 1's interest in seeds became an organic vegetable patch - designing the garden, requesting donations from businesses, planting, tending, harvesting and selling produce; Year 3 wanted to know why there were more cane toads than frogs in the school pond – so accessed professionals from plumbers to university researchers – before writing to school governors and the Japanese prefectures who had donated the pond, to suggest improvements; Preps investigated where their rubbish went, searched through mangroves, collected rubbish on the beach, interviewed scientists and environmental educators, and organised "Nude Food Day"; Year 4 used the TASC (Thinking Actively in a Social Context) model to examine the different perspectives that stakeholders had when it came to using the Rainforest and Reef, culminating in a passionate expo complete with displays and debate. However, upon reflection, it has been me, as the teacher, who has had ultimate control over where the inquiry goes, and for how long. As I become older and more reflective, I realise that the open-ended nature of inquiry learning at a university level will definitely have its benefits and pitfalls for me- I need to maintain that learning/life balance!
I’ve been in my new job exactly five days now, and my role is still developing. However, I do know that my inquiry will need to focus on gifted education, secondary schooling and on how to inspire secondary teachers (who are already incredibly busy) to take the time to learn more about the needs of the gifted learners in their classroom. I know I’m going to have to make the learning not too light/easy, not too dense/tedious, but just right for them – Goldilocks!
As a requisite of this course, my three #inquiryquestions will be :
· How can inquiry-based learning can be used to benefit all learners, but especially gifted and talented students in the secondary classroom?
· How can I construct a community of inquiry to assist secondary teachers to develop their knowledge and understanding of the particular needs of gifted and talented students in order that they develop differentiated learning opportunities for all students?
· What are the needs of gifted and talented secondary school students?
These are all questions that I am interested in, and all are linked. However, to keep this inquiry not too long, not too overwhelming, but “just right” in terms of time required management and usefulness my next step will be to identify key terms and to look for synonyms which may assist my search. This will hopefully assist me to clarify my thoughts and channel my inquiry. A useful method to do this is to develop a mind map. To do this I have used Coggle. After further reflection one of these questions will be used to focus my inquiry.
Update: I've already begun to clarify and revise - my inquiry question is now
"How can I assist secondary teachers to develop their knowledge of the needs of gifted students?"