Sandy Venter – Incoming IB (PYP) Coordinator – Brookes Moscow
You may be asking yourself ‘What is inquiry?’ and ‘What’s all the fuss about it?’ Well, let me try to shed some light on the subject.
Coming from a country, South Africa, which bases most of its educational practices on traditional approaches, that is memorizing knowledge for the purpose of recitation and thereby not developing critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills, inquiry was new to me too. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to it six years ago when I started my international teaching journey, and have never looked back. I realized this is the only way I want my children educated.
Growing up I often asked myself; “Why am I learning this at school?’, ‘How is this relevant to my life?’ and ‘What’s the purpose of knowing this?’ Well, the truth was, most of it was not relevant and had no purpose. And as a result, most of what I learned at school is long forgotten. This is where inquiry comes in.
Simply put, inquiry is a systematic investigation into a problem, topic, issue or idea; it is the practice of making observations in the world around us, asking questions and pursuing investigations so that we can make sense of it. These are skills needed to be successful in the 21st Century and beyond. It is no longer important to know about ‘Dinosaurs’ but rather to understand the concept of ‘Extinction’ and how it affects our lives. This makes inquiry a critical approach to teaching and learning because we are educating students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Inquiry places the student at the heart of education and student interest drives the process. Students are therefore actively involved in the learning process and given a degree of control over what they are learning. Teaching our students how to think and not what to think is essential. In the wise words of Socrates, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
The skills used and taught during inquiry ensure that students create their own understanding of concepts, and through relevant and challenging engagements, they become more curious about the world. These skills inevitably promote lifelong learning and equip students for an ever-changing world. Students learn and understand best through active engagement and experiences and this actually modifies connections among neurons in certain areas of the brain (Squire & Kandel, 2008).
Joining Brookes Moscow as the PYP Coordinator in August 2018, I know that in partnership with a dynamic and enthusiastic teaching faculty, these skills will be embedded in our teaching and learning approaches and guide our students to become successful and responsible global citizens. Brookes Moscow will be the place where students can accomplish rich, engaging work. Work that will inspire, develop insight and stir up the imagination through using an inquiry-based philosophy.