As you may know, I am currently a research assistant at our local university. We are working on a project about a type of self-directed inquiry called “Transformative Inquiry.” I joined this project in the summer before my final year of university and it has been an influential part of my teaching ever since. In our final year we take the Transformative Inquiry course and it is one of the first opportunities where we are able to really look at our place in this education system: what we bring in as a teacher, what we want to change, etc. Through this process I have really begun to understand who I am as a teacher and what I am going to bring to my students that I feel this world needs.
The freedom of being able to look a topic of interest was a turning point for me when it came to the delivery of curriculum in my own classroom. When I took my contract this year I knew I wanted to incorporate some of this style of learning but I wasn’t sure how.
After Christmas, I ventured into the personal inquiry project with my students and it began to take shape. Each student looked at a topic they were interested in and had to research it, talk to friends/family members about it, conduct an interview with someone, etc. And then we looked at their topics with a global lens to see how connections could be made worldwide. The students then had to do a personal, community, and global connections piece and a presentation for the class.
The project was far from perfect… We needed more time on a few parts that I tried to rush through and much less time on other areas. It ran too late into the end of the year and not everyone had the opportunity to present. Some students were confused about the process and very focused on an end result. Some lessons went off the rails pretty quickly and we had to switch gears… But in the end there was a lot of great connections and learning that came from the project and I am so happy that I ventured into the unknown with this one.
My subject connection was to language arts, although I believe you can connect personal projects to most, if not all, subjects. I think writing and sharing about their interests was some of the most effective learning this year. When the students were talking about something they were passionate about they seemed to get lost in their topic and speak from their heart. Their writing was deep and moving – well written and again, from the heart.
I learned a lot from doing this project but the thing that was most astounding to me was watching the students talk about their topics and share the information with each other. In June, when some of the students were presenting, I saw something come alive in the class. There were students sharing very personal information and the rest of the class appeared to be truly listening to their peers. I saw connection and understanding grow between many students. It was amazing to watch and I felt so inspired.
I received a note from one of my students on the last day of class that thanked me for the opportunity to present to the class about a topic that she did not feel she had been able to talk about otherwise. In this note she said that I had inspired in her a love for English and expressing herself through writing and then she said that she only wished I had found the same inspiration this year. Well all I can say is that I truly did… I am inspired to continue to have students complete personal projects and I am inspired by the passions and ideas that the students have. I have found more inspiration in watching these students share than I ever could while reading or researching anything on my own.
Do you do any personal projects or inquiry in your classroom?
Would you like to hear more about the specifics of my project?
Also, please share some of your inspiration from your students!