On Wednesday, Guided Inquiry expert, Dr Leslie Maniotes visited Barker. She spent the afternoon working with Heads of Department and teaching staff, guiding them through the fundamentals of the Guided Inquiry Design process. In the evening, Dr Maniotes spoke to over 130 parents and staff at a Barker Institute event. As I have mentioned before, this was Dr Maniotes' first visit to Australia to work with schools and it was a great privilege for us to be able to host her here at Barker.
Dr Maniotes reminded both staff and parents that the process of learning is challenging, and sometimes it can be uncomfortable to the point of wanting to give up. I have certainly experienced this feeling and have seen it in my own children. It's a natural response to learning something new. She used the graphic below to emphasise this point; early excitement and interest can soon be met with the feeling that the task is insurmountable. It was also emphasised that in the digital age of 'information abundance' this process is even more complex.
Dr Maniotes made a vital point that this feeling of discomfort is something that, as learners, we need to be more comfortable with.
The good news is that if students are provided with a set of tools to manage information and to learn from it, then the feeling of discomfort can be replaced with a great sense of achievement when new learning occurs and new knowledge can be used. The aim of the Guided Inquiry process is to provide students with a set of tools that they can use to learn from information and to build new knowledge, and this is why we are beginning the process of implementing Guided Inquiry in the high school.
Dr Maniotes' doctoral research is focused on the concept of Third Space. Third Space describes the point where student experience and interests intersects with mandated curriculum. Dr Maniotes' view is that the more teachers can do to connect new concepts with student experiences and prior knowledge, the deeper the learning will be. This doesn't mean that teachers have to change what they teach to suit what students are interested in, as Dr Maniotes said, 'There's way too many interesting & important things in the curriculum to worry about that!' It's more about acknowledging that, to some extent, students will naturally connect new content and ideas to what they already know and to what interests them. Guided Inquiry takes advantages of this idea of Third Space by providing students with choices within the mandated curriculum.
It was a pleasure to welcome Dr Maniotes to Barker and I am very confident that her guidance will go a long way to enhancing the implementation of Guided Inquiry as a foundational piece of our approach to teaching and learning in the high school.