Meeting with Colleagues and Experiencing the Demonstration Classroom
By Peter Douglas
Louise and I have been very busy in the past few weeks as we roll out the demonstration classroom, thanks to our TLLP project. Teachers from around our board were invited to come spend the morning with us and experience our class in action. Our project budget allowed for supply teachers to free up our guests and it was therefore a relaxed and fun morning of joining the kids and later talking about the experience. Our colleagues arrived in groups of two to four over a number of days and the format was simple: Introduction to Inquiry-based learning, join the students in the classroom in action and ask questions of the kids while circulating, return to have a small group discussion, a presentation of work from the students, followed by a question and answer period (with the students), and finally an open-ended exchange of ideas.
I was very impressed with the level of enthusiasm the guest teachers exhibited. It was exciting to see the students engage so maturely with the adults as they shared their honest feelings about the inquiry process. Because we are so completely sold on this learning method, it was not difficult to talk about our successes and challenges. Alleviating the concerns about inquiry-based teaching was helped along by all of the good work the students presented and the caring concern they showed each other. After that, it was more a matter of helping the teachers see how they could implement the techniques in their classroom rather than convincing them it was a solid system.
Many teachers are hesitant to adopt a new format without seeing it in action. It was suggested that we 'take the show on the road' and offer to visit fellow teachers at their schools and help them get started. We are pursuing this goal with our board administrators for next year.
Teachers found it fascinating to see how well the students effectively used technology. Whether it was the comfort level of the students using modern tools or the creativity of the presentations that resulted, the feeling amongst the guests was that a skillful use of modern learning tools created a basis for dynamic learning. I felt it important to point out that any inquiry-based classroom is surely to benefit from good use of tech but that it wasn't a requirement. Asking great questions and working in a group do not rely on technical aids. What does help is the creative use of visually rich presentations. This can occur with or without tech.