Yesterday I had the pleasure of a visit with my best friend. She’s an occupational therapist who works in a hospital in Toronto and one of the best things about our relationship is that we can talk for hours about virtually anything. Near the end of our visit, we got on to the topic of work and it was interesting to hear her take on what’s important in education. Sometimes this can be a tricky topic with people who are from outside the world of education, but what she said really resonated with me.

My friend has gone through four years of undergraduate work at university, completed her masters in two years and has now worked in her field for three years. It was interesting to hear that she believes that her years doing graduate studies really prepared her for what she would face in a workplace situation. She described how her graduate classes were full of discussion based lessons where the students were presented with scenarios and had to problem solve together to find the best course of action. She said of course that there were exams, presentations and other various assessment tasks, but what really helped her was being able to logically discuss the issue with her peers and then work together to determine how to best tackle a situation. It was really interesting to me as a classroom teacher to listen to her talk about her graduate experience. All the skills and ideas that I believe to be paramount in education (problem solving, critical analysis, discussion, creativity, cooperation, consensus, etc.) she praised as skills that have helped her be successful both in her education as well as professional career. She then went on to say that if she has an issue or is unsure of a course of action, she is able to talk to one of her colleagues about the situation and they work together to find a course of action that is suitable and appropriate for her patient.

Listening to her discuss these skills made me think. Shouldn’t this be more of a focus in high school education? Why should we force our students to wait until they are in graduate studies to have our students become proficient in these skills? I think there is a shift towards this kind of thinking in education, but I don’t think we are fully there yet. My question then becomes how do we take the focus off of skills like memorization and regurgitation to concentrate more on authentic and practical life skills? How do we facilitate a larger scale change away from content based learning to more of a skill set based learning?  I know these are rather large pedagogical based questions for a Sunday morning during summer holidays but when I hear people in the world of work discussing the importance of these particular skills, it makes me think about the grand picture in education… Feel free to comment back with your thoughts and opinions.


8 thoughts on “Inquiry into Pedagogy

  1. Definitely huge questions for a Sunday morning but critical ones nonetheless. One could also ask why, in the younger grades, the inquiry process is totally encouraged – even ‘taught’ but as students get older, theses processes are replaced by all of the other edubabble. Students need inquiry at all grades – especially in high school. Great questions that need answers, Jamie!

  2. Thanks, Cyndie! I always find it interesting talking non-education people about what is truly important in the workplace and hearing the emphasis on skills rather than content!

  3. Jamie, I think that we are doing everything your friend said she learned in Graduate school. It is one of the reasons that I struggle with technology in the classroom. I use it and find it valuable, but find that it can be isolating for students when they rely tooo much on it. Sometimes I wonder if we are missing the ability to do just what your girlfriend talked about. Sitting down and talking things through with our fellow collegues and friends. I am happy to say that I do think that we as educators are moving away from memorization etc. I think that we as a collective are doing a great job at engaging students and getting them to think critically. P.S I see your baking banana bread…NESTING????

  4. I plan most of my coursework to focus on our discussion of what we read, whatcthey experience, and where the two overlap. It IS the way to prepare students for college. Having done two grad programs, I look that experience as my most rewarding, but I also remember both programs as the part of my life where I worked the hardest as well. Students at any level have got to show up willing and able. The “able” is the part that slows down the process: if they don’t come prepared, they are not able to take the next step, which is to share. So, I look towards their ultimate skill set while I am doing everything I can to get 16 year olds to see that they must have a “critical mass” of knowledge and experience to play this game called life (school?).

  5. Liz,

    I agree that there definitely needs to be a balance when it comes to technology in the classroom. There are students who want to sit down at a computer, Google a question or topic and expect all the answers to miraculously show up on the screen without using any critical thinking skills at all and that’s not learning or educating them in any sense of the imagination. I completely agree with you in that technology is definitely just a tool that we use and we need to encourage our students to see it that way rather than relying on it too much.

    Thanks for extending and pushing my thinking. I love hearing different opinions on my thinking and I find that this blog is just another layer for discussion about things that come up in education 🙂

  6. Les,

    It sounds like we teach in a very similar fashion. It is sometimes quite a challenge to get 16 year olds to see the value in what we’re doing in the classroom, but when you do get them to share, I think it’s one of the best feelings a teacher can experience.

    Good luck with a new crop of students this year 🙂

  7. Preaching to the choir.

    I’ve just spent the past week working with new and experienced teachers, trying to get them to come around to this pedagogical paradigm. I have discovered that one of the reasons teachers are reluctant to move in this direction is partly that they have not received PD in how to enact these processes in their classroom. To have our classrooms be inquiry based and collaborative, we need to skilled questioners and facilitators of discussion. This is a skill we need to hone through purposeful and collaborative practice as educators.

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