#vted Reads: Dive Into Inquiry

Welcome to another episode of #vted Reads! We’re so glad you could make it. In this episode, we talk with librarian Margi Putney, from the Burr & Burton Academy, down in Manchester Vermont. She and I read Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning & Empower Student Voice, by Trevor MacKenzie.

Don’t those two things sound amazing? Who *doesn’t* want to amplify learning and empower student voice, I ask you.

MacKenzie presents strategies for scaffolding inquiry with your students that you can put into practice tomorrow. Heck, why wait for tomorrow, why not put them into practice after you finish listening to this podcast?

For instance, when was the last time you polled your students, as to what they think makes a great teacher?

Aha, see? All kinds of nuggets of goodness in this one. Plus we talk moving the sage on the stage to a guide on the side and why most classrooms need — really need — some kind of librarian bat-signal. When in doubt…

I’m Jeanie Phillips, this is #vted Reads. Let’s chat!

Jeanie: Thanks for joining me, Margi. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Margi: Thanks Jeanie. I’m Margi and I’m the librarian at Burr & Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont. This is my fifth year at Burr & Burton! I grew up in Philadelphia. And I’ve been in Vermont for about 20 plus years.

Jeanie: Excellent. You and I are librarian compatriots. We’ve been to conferences together and we’ve done some work together and it’s just such a pleasure to have you on the podcast.And for once having a librarian and talking about a non-fiction book, a teacher book and not fiction book, so I’m excited about that!

One thing I like to ask my guest right away is what are you reading?

Margi: I’m reading a good book. It’s called Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Are you familiar with it?

Jeanie: Is she the student at Stanford?

Margi: She is. She is the student who was sexually assaulted at Stanford while she was unconscious behind a dumpster; there were two graduate students that found her, and stopped her attacker. The book is beautifully written. It’s so powerful to hear her voice and to know her name, because she was “Emily Doe”. She also was the one who had that viral victim statement.

Jeanie: I’ve read that viral statement and it was such a powerful piece. So I’m looking forward to adding this to my To Be Read pile.

Margi: I highly recommend it.

Jeanie: Thank you. Let’s diiiive into inquiry! (Pardon me, folks.) Let’s jump in. Let’s start with a definition of inquiry if we could. Trevor MacKenzie, the author of this book starts with a couple of definitions at the beginning and then defines it himself. Do you want to go ahead and share one of those definitions?

Margi: I do. I love the very first definition, it’s before the introduction. And it’s from the book, Focus on Inquiry. And it says,

“Inquiry is the dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlements, and coming to know and understand the world.”

So, I had a very specific memory, I think especially as I read that quote.

When I was in eighth grade, I went to a small school. We had a very cozy classroom with multiple bulletin boards that were always decorated. And at one point, I noticed one of the bulletin boards was completely blank. I think maybe it had wrapping paper on it and a tiny little box in the centre of it, which made me curious.

And I went and I opened the tiny little box and there was a quote in the middle of the box, and I don’t remember the exact words. But what I got from it was something like “curiosity is the beginning of knowledge”. And it was a little quest. You had to go to a different place in the school, and you got a special pin that you got to put on.

So, the teacher knew by seeing you wear that pin, that you had been curious and you had followed through. And so for me, inquiry is curiosity. And my hope is that we get students super excited and curious about things.

Jeanie: Yeah. That is a great story. For me, inquiry is about curiosity. But it’s also about having the tools necessary to follow through on curiosity, which is where great school librarians and teachers come into play.

Margi: Yay yay, a plug for librarians!

Jeanie: I think we’re going to do a lot of librarian cheerleading. And so, there’s also a definition on page nine. ‘m going to turn there and read that one.

Trevor MacKenzie says,

“For me, inquiry goes beyond these terms. I see inquiry as the strongest method to create personalized learning pathways for all learners, a method that brings the curriculum of life into the curriculum of school.”

I love that definition of inquiry. As inquiry as this powerful sort of hook to engage students and to personalize learning for them, but I feel like it’s missing a little bit of a specifics. And I wondered if you could give us some more details about the process of inquiry and what’s involved.

Margi: To me, inquiry is comprised of multiple steps. And you and I have talked about this a little bit in the past. I think that a lot of times there’s a tendency to think, okay, kids need to do a research project or an inquiry project. And we try and do too much at once.

Whereas, you know, we have the step of defining our question. And then searching for information. Evaluating our sources. So, there are all of these really distinct steps.

And I think we do a potential disservice to our students if we try and cram too much into the process. It’s better if we focus on one thing at a time.

Jeanie: I completely agree with you that it’s a complicated process for adults, let alone for our students, right? There’s a lot of instruction and scaffolding and practice they need to do in the individual steps. Whether it’s:

  • finding information;
  • figuring out which information helps them answer their question;
  • then synthesizing it;
  • putting it into some new form or new understanding or new knowledge schema;
  • and then maybe presenting it to the rest of the world.

All of those are distinct steps that require a lot of instruction, effort, practice…

Margi: Right. And I think that a lot of times as adults, some of this has become second nature to us. If you want to look for …tires for your car, you’re searching and you’re evaluating and you’re sort of doing it at the same time.

But maybe we should think of them as separate pieces. Or at least identify them for students until they evolve in their inquiry skills. And they sort of do it at once.

Jeanie: Daniel Kahneman, in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, calls that a heuristic? That we develop these shortcut methods by which we make decisions, or by which we can do things really quickly. But students (and sometimes adults, too) have faulty heuristics.

And so, I’m thinking about my students searching. They’ll often only look at the first page of Google. Or they’ll type the whole question into a Google search engine and not understand why they didn’t get the kind of hits that they wanted, the kind of documents or the kind of sites that they were looking for.

So helping them create new heuristics for how to fine-tune their search strategy is one like, small piece of impactful inquiry.

Margi: Agreed.

Jeanie: So, let’s get back to MacKenzie’s book. Because I do love the way he is sort of harnessing inquiry as a way to really engage students fully in their learning. And one of the things I noticed on page 13 was his work in engaging students in co-designing their courses.

Margi: I love this idea. It makes me a little nervous. *laughs*

You know, it’s one of these opportunities that’s a little scary because we’re really relinquishing a little bit of control. And we’re asking the students to come together with us and decide what’s important to spend the semester on.

Jeanie: Yeah. We have a lot of teachers, educators in this state who are doing negotiated curriculum with students.

 

But I think what really was powerful for me about the section is the way MacKenzie scaffolds it. And walks through how he does that.

I found it really fascinating the way he scaffolds it over time, so that students have the skills they need to do it, as they’re doing it.

Margi: Right. And you know, we all — teachers and librarians — I think do that within a semester or within a year with students. And then librarians, I think, are also sort of one step removed. We’re trying to scaffold a lot of this over maybe the four years. Develop the skills and then go back and refine the skills or dig deeper with some of the skills.

Jeanie: It reminds me a lot of what I used to do. The way I used to think about planning when I co-planned with teachers as a librarian. Which is to think about the places where we could embed more choice? And MacKenzie hits on some of those. Like: what topics would you like to dig into?

So, it could be that the topic is the place of choice. It could be that the process is the place of choice — like the how you go about it has a lot of choice built into it, and then, the product. What you create as a result of this inquiry could have a lot of choice as well.

Margi: Mm-hm. Are you familiar with the mountain campus? They do a semester-long integrated curriculum and it culminates in a project I think they’re usually done in small groups, where they’re deciding a change that they can create in their local community. And the end results run the gamut, but also the ways they get there. The paths they take to get there are all different.

Jeanie: That’s excellent. I would love to see some of those. I love there’s almost a page and a half of questions that MacKenzie negotiates with the students.

  • What role do you see technology playing enhancing learning in the class?
  • Do you prefer class discussions or teacher lecture? Why or why not?
  • If you could demonstrate your understanding in any fashion, how would you choose to do it?

Margi: Is this where he also talks about what makes a really great teacher? Because I loved that. I love the idea that he solicited information from the students on what makes a really great teacher. He made a list I think, and then he holds himself accountable. He posts the list within the classroom. And I think he emails it to his colleagues and puts it on Twitter.

Jeanie: Yeah, that’s in chapter three. He shares that with his colleagues in Google Doc form. He shares it with his students. And he uses it to assess himself. To evaluate his own performance in the classroom and ask students to give him feedback too. “How am I doing on this?” And I think that’s a really fascinating approach.

He also acknowledges that when you are focused on inquiry and giving kids this kind of choice, your role is going to be different. He redefines that role, and he calls it “an educator’s coach, facilitator networker, shoulder to lean on”.

At the Tarrant Institute, we’ve been thinking a lot about the roles teachers play in a personalized learning environment.

We think of teacher as scout, right? And in an inquiry project, you might be scouting ahead to make sure your students are going to have the resources they need, or the people, and some of those resources might be unconventional resource. Experts in the field, right? It also made me think these are the roles librarians have been playing for a long time.

Margi: They definitely are. Coach, cheerleader, supporter, teammate… I mean whatever it takes. I keep thinking of it, it feels almost like a cliché now that we’re not “the sage on the stage”. What it is is that we’re the “guide on the side”. And that’s very much a librarian role.

It’s always helpful. Any kind of heads-up — and MacKenzie talks about that — any kind of co-planning or collaborating with the librarian? The sooner the librarian gets pulled in, the more scouting we can do to try and, you know, make it easier. Or also softly guide! We want the students to do the work but, you know, if we can anticipate any roadblocks they might face, then we can anticipate how we might help guide them around.

Jeanie: Yeah. He makes it really clear that the shift in roles doesn’t mean we’re not teaching. It’s just teaching in a different way. We’re still actively involved; it’s just a different role. And I always found when I was a school librarian that one of the phrases I use most often, that kids rarely heard elsewhere, was:

“I don’t know, but let’s find out together.”

And so, often kids come to me with questions that I don’t need to be an expert on… it could be anything, right? Like working with kids on how to fix a snowmobile. I don’t need to be an expert on that. What I can be an expert on is how to find the information you need to solve your problem.

Margi: Right. And that’s what we’re hoping to guide them towards! We want them to develop their skills so they’re doing that more and more on their own.

I was talking with some other teachers about citations the other day, MLA-style citations, and when exactly do we teach students? And the conclusion we came to is, it’s really important to make sure students understand why we use citations. The value of citations, what it demonstrates about the student.

Let’s say they’re doing a typical research paper and if they have that source, that cited page, the bibliography. That shows how much work they’ve done, how much knowledge that they’ve incorporated.

Of course, it also gives credit to the original people. But that style piece, the details with the hanging indent or the alphabetical order… Yes, that’s important. But they can find that out. And a lot of times, they’ll ask me a specific question and I’ll say I can’t remember. But I know where to look!

And who knows where they’re going to end up. They might be doing APA citations. But as long as they understand that framework, why we do it? The details they can pick up.

Jeanie: And I love that appreciative approach. You’ve utilized all these sources to impact your thinking! Why wouldn’t you want credit for that? Yes, we want to give credit to where you’re getting your ideas from. We don’t want to plagiarize, right? But also like, you did the work of reading all that stuff, own it. Take ownership of it.

Margi: Right. Now, *you’re* the authority, you know, for this piece of information. So, you should take credit for that by sharing your sources.

Jeanie: It’s a source of pride as opposed to a way to protect yourself from copyright infringement or plagiarism. It turns that on its head a little bit. I love that approach. Yeah, I also know that you’ve said in the past that methods like this allow the learner to do the work.

I think one of the other interesting things about teachers playing different roles when we’re focusing on inquiry, when we’re using inquiry to guide learning and personalized learning is that students play different roles too.

It’s different than answering questions for a teacher, say. Or doing a project as defined by the teacher where you focus on inquiry. Do you want to think a little bit with me about the different role students play as they go through the inquiry process?

Margi: You should’ve seen right before the break, I had a student come into the library *so* excited because I had been visiting his class when his teacher was out one day, and they were picking topics. They were able to choose their own topic to answer a broad question; he had a vague idea of something he wanted to do. And then since I saw him, he specifically decided it was Edward Snowden was what he wanted to focus on.

He had gone deep into it. He was so proud. And this was one of the few times I think *he* would say that he got really excited about a project. The fact that he came running back into the library to tell me about it. And he had to do a speech that he was nervous about. But as he was standing in front of me, he rattled off all sorts of facts about Edward Snowden, and I was able to point out, you know what? You have it all. Here’s an example, you’re now an authority on Edward Snowden. Like, you can do this.

Jeanie: I think I had the same experience with my son, when he was in high school where he got to do this really big research project on net neutrality. He was really fired up about it. And he knew a lot more about net neutrality than I did. He was more of an authority than I am, for sure.

Margi: But that’s what we want, you know? However, we can do it, that’s what we want. We want to put the spark in the students so that *they’re* doing it. My son, last night we talked about the personalized experience, and we see it sometimes at home. I think parents can talk more about what’s more exciting to their kids.

We started a new semester yesterday (or the day before) and he’s in cinema and working on that first cinema project. Writing a screenplay. And he had other homework to do, there was like AP History and other things. But he kept coming back, across the room, spit-balling ideas for a screenplay. Because he was that excited about it.

Jeanie: A little enthusiasm goes a long way.

Margi: Yes, it does.

Jeanie: So, we’ve already talked a little bit about this, but I love that in this book, there’s actually a heading: “Collaborate With Your Librarian!” And Trevor MacKenzie gives a lot of shoutouts to librarians — for which we’re grateful! We also want you, listener, to collaborate with your librarian. And I wondered if you wanted to talk about the things a librarian can offer as a collaborator on inquiry. What that might look like for educators who haven’t collaborated with their librarian?

Margi: Right? I mean, there’s *so* many things that we can help with. And obviously it depends on the grade.

Jeanie: Do you want to talk about a little bit about what it looks like or what a librarian can offer as a collaborator, inquiry projects?

Margi: Absolutely. Probably a more obvious opportunity is when there’s a specific topic that a teacher wants students to work on: curating a group of resources for the students.

We had a freshman class and they did a project about the spread of Buddhism, and they looked at it through the artwork. They had to research artwork. And as we talked about it, the conversations I got to have with the teachers were really helpful. We decided that it was *really difficult*, potentially, for a freshman to research Buddhist art. So we put together the articles for them to read. We found the websites for them to look at.

Jeanie: That to me is a curation role. And sometimes I think we think kids have to do soup-to-nuts. Like they have to find their own sources. But sometimes, finding resources for them makes for higher quality work. It also allows you to focus on, say, synthesis. Or finding the right information within the sources to help answer your question, then present your learning or create something new with it.

Margi: Right! And then taking another step! In a few weeks I’m going to be working with freshmen again. I seem to be recently doing a lot of work with freshmen in a wellness class on *macro-nutrients*, which I need to learn a little bit about myself. And the purpose is going to be note-taking and annotation and synthesis. So that’s another example. That’s just a little piece of inquiry. And that might be a visit to the library or librarian into the classroom just to focus on one part of a class or for an entire block.

You can tell ‘m really big on this idea of focus! Let’s focus on a concrete part of the inquiry process. Soup-to-nuts is hard. And I love, you know, MacKenzie scaffolds us towards this idea of “free inquiry” which is… so fabulous to imagine. Students deciding what they want to focus on and how they’re going to get there. But he also lets us off the hook and says you can do this in smaller steps. And it might take you a few years to develop a curriculum that’s full inquiry. Which I appreciate.

Jeanie: MacKenzie starts with structured inquiry, which is really scaffolded. He has a diagram which is a swimming pool, and they’re on the side of the pool, holding onto the edge. Then the swimmers move towards controlled inquiry, guided inquiry and then free inquiry. And those are progressively deeper areas of the pool.

Dive Into Inquiry
Copyright Trevor MacKenzie. Used with permission

So it’s a sort of gradual release, allowing students to gain the skills they need in order to be successful with free inquiry. If we just throw them into the deep end right away, they’re not going to be successful. We’re going to be frustrated, too. And we’re going to be like, kids can’t do this. It’s too hard.

Margi: Right. It’s overwhelming.

Jeanie: But we can’t expect them to do what we haven’t taught. So, what I hear you saying is that we can chunk this out and teach bits of it, so that by the time they’re doing free inquiry, they have the skills they need.

I love this idea that free inquiry doesn’t just mean we just open up our classroom and say, “Study whatever you want!” That:

  • there’s a lot of skills embedded in this that we teach;
  • we tie it to the standards or the proficiencies that we’re working on;
  • and we’re giving them the support and the resources they need to be successful at it.

Yeah.

MacKenzie’s also big on backwards design. He really outlines in a way that I found really quite streamlined and organized what good backwards design looks like in inquiry. And he gives a bunch of examples. And I wondered about your thoughts about his approach to UBD (Understanding by Design).

Margi: I love that he teaches the students about UBD! We talk a lot about the science of learning and how the brain works. MacKenzie sets up this idea that the students create their own unit of backwards design where they’re figuring out what their goal is for their free inquiry project. And then, how they are going to get there.

So, they’re really accomplishing two tasks at once. They’re doing whatever the specific inquiry project is. And then they’re also building this skill of: I have a goal, it’s happening in the future and how am I going to get there? They reflect along the way and they assess and they adjust and keep aiming towards that goal.

Jeanie: I feel like you just defined self-direction without actually saying the word self-direction, right? By teaching them, like: this is what I want to achieve and how I’m going to get there. That’s what the roadmap looks like? And I think he really does actually ask them to develop a plan to get there along the way and to adjust their plan over time. That is unpacking self-direction without using the sort of catchphrases we use all the time for self-direction.

Like, “persistence”, right? He’s not just saying persist. He’s teaching them how to plan, adjust, chunk out goals into steps, right?

He unpacks all of that in these chapters about how he asked kids to plan. And there’s a great graphic on page 42 that looks like a map.

Dive Into Inquiry
Copyright Trevor MacKenzie. Used with permission.

Essentially, he asked kids to do these seven steps. To figure out:

  1. What they’re interested in
  2. What they’re curious about
  3. And what they’re passionate about
  4. To ask an essential question
  5. To create a proposal for their inquiry unit
  6. And to start to explore and research and collect evidence of their learning

Then, 7) to create something authentic and display it to the world.

And I think those seven steps are really powerful.

What I want us to do is to take a little time with these pillars of inquiry because I think this is somewhere we sometimes have gaps.

Margi: I had a conversation with a colleague who introduced what was called a passion project last year. And she said the students didn’t take to it the way she thought. Some of the pushback she got was, “I don’t have a passion”. And that’s a tricky word for some of us.

How many of us really identified at a young age what our passions are? And so we have other opportunities.

MacKenzie’s saying we could instead aim for a goal. We could delve into something we’re curious about. We could take on a new challenge.

And within this chapter, he also has a list of great questions that I love.

So, he has interviews with the students as they set this up. There’s this list of questions. And my favorite is:

“Have you ever lost track of time doing something? What were you doing?”

Instead of saying what was your passion, try and remember the last time that you got so caught up in something that you lost track of the time.

Jeanie: You know, I got a Rowland Fellowship a few years back. And my whole proposal was about helping kids do this kind of inquiry, based on what they were interested in and are passionate about.  I developed a whole curriculum. This was an area I spent a lot of time researching, and I really struggled with finding resources on how to get kids to find the passion, find the thing. Because it’s not just shooting in the dark. It’s not just like, sort of blind luck.

One of my takeaways, one of my new understandings I hadn’t had before — I went through this whole inquiry process myself — was that being interested in things is a verb. Like, you don’t just have interests. People who are interested in things? Are interested in a lot of things. And I like that word, “interest”, better than “passion”. But this is a skill we need to develop: curiosity or passion or interest or engagement with the world.

But I think if you ask students, I don’t know they’re used to being asked. And then we assume when they can’t answer right away, that they don’t have those things. Instead we should think, “How do we help them develop the capacity to realize their interests are really important?”

So, I really love chapter seven! These pillars of inquiry as a way of getting into what might you want to study.

  • What might you want to dig deeper on?
  • What might wake you up or give you motivation to stay with this inquiry?

Margi: “Are there any topics you find yourself consistently arguing or defending to others?” That’s an example: a student that’s arguing all the time about something, maybe that’s what they should be doing inquiry on.

Jeanie: Then sometimes interest looks different for different kids. If one of your students wants to be a nurse, their inquiry could be about what does that look like? What could that be like for me?

Margi: I saw a student fidgeting with fidget toys. And that was a launching point. What what makes a fidget toy work? Do you think you could design a fidget toy? How would that work?

And then there was a Rubik’s Cube; one student could solve them really quickly. So: do you think you could make a program or a robot that would mix up the Rubik’s Cube?

Jeanie: So, you’re asking questions related to what they’re already interested in?

Margi: Right. But they’re not necessarily focused on being interested in. I don’t know if I have that skill to ask those questions yet. It’s tricky.

Jeanie: But you have a growth mindset, Margi. I trust you can develop it.

Margi: I do! And I’m going to work on it.

Jeanie: Don’t you think he brings up a lot, which really rings true with Act 77, is this idea of authenticity. And I love this quote on page 67.

He says,

“Students want to have a genuine impact on others. And if we can bridge the divide between school and life, amazing things will happen.”

And I think a lot about how frustrating it can be as an instructor when kids ask: when am I going to ever use this in real life?

On the other hand, that just demonstrates to us that kids really want something to be meaningful in the real world. In their real life. And this kind of inquiry can help bridge that gap. That idea of authenticity points to some other things that resonated with practices I’ve seen be really successful in some Vermont middle schools. And that’s calling on community partners — experts in the field — to come and be someone that students work with.

I’ve had students who were interested in photography work with photographers. I’ve had students who are interested in talking about racial and equity work with people out in the world who are doing racial equity work and interview them and connect with them.

Margi: That’s certainly a librarian can help with and do. We’re not just about the books, or where the database is. A lot of times it’s about connecting humans. Where is the authority going to come from? Who is the authority that we can pull in?

Jeanie: Yeah. At Manchester Elementary Middle School, we’ve had members of the select board come in and talk to kids. Olympians come in and talk to kids for different projects so that kids had access to the real world resources that are humans. And social media allows us really to network with scientists and all across the world, right? Skyping in experts, for example. So, we can think beyond our communities.

But our communities are also really rich places for those kind of authentic experts.

Margi: Definitely. The local community versus the broader community made me think of using Twitter for certain things to research. You might get a larger, more global response than just Googling something. When we were working on the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, if you put in the hashtags for the different goals, it’s amazing. You would look at things from Bangladesh and Thailand. And as opposed to, you know, a lot of times we get localized responses through our search engine.

Jeanie: That’s also a way for students to authentically join the conversation, right? So, they’re not just consumers of information, they’re also participants in this larger conversation.

Margi: MacKenzie talks a lot about that the presentation of learning, and he votes for having a digital representation of even whatever the work is.

I think one of the projects was revamping an amphibious vehicle. So clearly it might not be that practical to bring the vehicle into the classroom, but a student videotaped the progress on the work, then videotaped the vehicle actually moving. And that artifact, that digital artifact can be shared out on a blog, on a website through Twitter.

And that reaches a larger audience and becomes authentic.

Jeanie: Yeah. When he calls these public displays of understanding, and I am a big fan of giving student work and teacher work a public audience.

Especially in an era where test scores are how we define the quality of our public schools? Having a public exhibition of student work can provide a different sort of vantage point or lens on what’s happening at school. That’s more meaningful to community members, right?

That’s more meaningful to say, oh, *that’s* the kind of work they’re doing at the school. Whether it’s a film festival or an art display or presentations out in the world. When we took students up to present to the select board [link goes to video] it was really a powerful day because those select board members got to see students presenting their work.

Margi: We have an expo here and we’ve expanded. I think initially it was science and now they’re trying to get every department to find ways to share student work. We’re all eager to see it!

There’s also a section in the book where MacKenzie’s talking about establishing relationships with the students. It’s just made me think of this. We all know how important the relationships are. And MacKenzie interviews the students and learns things that we might not know. The passions or the interests or the jobs. The the sports player that you might not know sitting in your classroom, or the ballerina. That it’s important to have that extra connection.

Jeanie: Yeah. MacKenzie never uses these words. MacKenzie never says “cultural responsiveness” or “culturally responsive pedagogy”, but what it makes me think about is the way in which by inviting in students interests, by inviting in the things that they’re engaging with, we are being more culturally responsive and honoring who they are. Right? Like, we are saying: the things that are outside of school that you bring with you are important here. They have a place here and you can use them to leverage your motivation for learning.

Margi: Right.

Jeanie: I found that to be a really powerful quiet message in this book that wasn’t said outright. But that felt really meaningful to me. This book is only like 115, 120 pages of really powerful plans for how to engage young people in their own learning in a more meaningful way.

Margi: I thought you’re going to say dive into inquiry again.

Jeanie: Dive into inquiry! Any other thoughts on MacKenzie’s approach to bringing inquiry into the classroom or into the way that you teach inquiry?

Margi: I think I said it once before. But I guess I always appreciate the idea that we can work in smaller steps. He does outline this broad plan for a future curriculum, whatever the subject matter that it’s all inquiry based, the entire thing which sounds great. But I love also the idea that we could start small. You know, we could start by offering choice and topic. We could start by offering choice of display and let students really individually think about what the best means is are, and my grammar is not good anymore late in the afternoon. But depending on their topic, how are they going to share with us what they’ve learned about the topic?

Jeanie: Yeah. And they surprise us, right?

Margi: They do.

Jeanie: Like they exceed our expectations when we give them the opportunity to do so.

Margi: Mm-hmm.

Jeanie: I really appreciate you helping me to think about inquiry. And to sort of dig deep into Trevor MacKenzie’s approach to leveraging inquiry for student engagement. Thank you so much Margi, for your time and your expertise.

Margi: Thank you. Anytime, always happy to talk with you.

 

vted Reads: Dive Into Inquiry
Burr & Burton Academy librarian Margi Putney (l.) and #vted Reads host Jeanie Phillips.

 

To find out more about Vermont Ed Reads including past episodes, upcoming guests and reads, and a whole lot more you can visit vtedreads.TarrantInstitute.org. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram. This podcast is a project of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont.

Author

Jeanie Phillips

Jeanie Phillips is a former (and always!) school librarian and a Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. A 2014 Rowland Fellow, she is passionate about student engagement, equity, collaboration, and questions. Jeanie likes to hike the woods of southern Vermont with her dog Charlie and is always in search of a well-brewed cup of tea and a good book.

What do you think?