03 SES 13, Facilitating Curriculum Implementation
This paper explores how inquiry-led learning is conducted and understood in cultural contexts across contrasting national settings and how these settings shape the nature of inquiry- led learning.
At present there is debate between proponents of knowledge-based curriculum and those who espouse curriculum an induction into disciplines, including their shared practices, languages and dialogues. Commentators such as Hirsch (1988) and Willingham (2009) have argued that a knowledge base is crucial in the development of educated minds and that there was a body of key knowledge whose mastery was crucial to a definition of ‘educated’ – what Hirsch referred to as ‘cultural literacy’, which is, presumably, culturally specific. On the other hand, in a rapidly changing world of increased global interaction, and ever-growing information resources, it has been argued that education needs to go beyond informing and become a process of empowering students to shape their unknown future worlds (Pink, 2006). Such curricula tend to take a constructivist approach to learning and promote learning in an inquiry led way.
These debates are reflected in the teaching methods and practices characterizing those curricula and controversy about inquiry learning in the literature has focused on levels of instruction, teacher guidance and the student role in learning. Inquiry-led learning recognises the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, and provides opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning (Lüddecke, 2015).
There have been a number of attempts across the world to embed a more inquiry-led approach into mainstream education, but International Baccalaureate programmes represent one of the current, centrally-sanctioned attempts to put student inquiry at the heart of the teaching-learning process and to to provide a curriculum which can be used across the world, raising serious questions about what the “cultural literacy” of the students undertaking it would be like.
This paper’s exploration of inquiry-led learning is based on data collected from a research project examining the ‘Exhibition’ - a learning experience as part of the International Baccalaureate Organisation’s (IBO) Primary Years Programme (PYP). The PYP is implemented in 1266 primary schools in 106 countries (IBO, 2015), and culminates in the PYP Exhibition, an extended piece of inquiry-led learning conducted by 10-12-year-olds.
This paper reports on the factors that facilitate and inhibit this form of learning in five different countries across four continents – Kenya, Russia, China, Mexico and the UK. Drawing on aconception of inquiry-led learning as collaborative and constructive of knowledge (Lüddecke, 2015), and Thomas and Brown’s (2011) suggestion that it is particularly relevant in our fast-evolving world, this paper asks to what extent inquiry-led learning is underpinned by Western ‘cultures of learning’ (Jin & Cortazzi, 2006), and how this serves those seeking internationally-minded or “global” approaches to education.
This study focused on participant views of the experience of a sustained student-led inquiry “the exhibition” planned over a longer period of time by teachers and undertaken over several weeks by students. The study asked: • How the exhibition took place in different contexts • How participants understood inquiry, critical thinking and international mindedness • How teachers shaped the student experience • What factors shaped the inquiry led learning. This mixed methods project drew on both qualitative and quantitative sources of data to investigate views about the PYP exhibition, and aimed to combine a multi-site case study methodology and the use of questionnaire surveys to develop a wider, informed picture of the PYP exhibition. The data collected for this study include a survey of students in seven case-study schools following the PYP, as well as focus groups with 8-10 students in each school. Interviews with parents, teachers and curriculum leaders complement this student data to enable the contrasting views of different stakeholders about inquiry-led learning to be explored. The paper concludes with a consideration the ways in which the notion of inquiry is adapted to contrasting cultural settings. A questionnaire survey for parents, students, teachers and coordinators was developed on the basis of these case-studies, to give a wider picture of the impact of the PYP exhibition on the development of learner profile characteristics, critical thinking and international-mindedness. The sample for this survey included all the IB schools that offered the PYP (and therefore, the exhibition) and the MYP, in the five case-study countries. The survey was administered in English in Kenya and the UK and in English and either Chinese, Russian or Spanish in the other countries. The analysis of this survey served as a means of testing, validating and broadening insights gleaned from a more fine-grained study of school practices in the case studies.
Parents, teachers and students were overwhelmingly positive about the PYP Exhibition as a learning experience, though different stakeholders constructed it differently. Parents had “bought into’ a vision of a globally orientated curriculum for their child but found themselves feeling pressures from their won schooling or expectations of assessment from other local schooling systems.Likewise, teachers were clear n their goals to empower and offer “just enough” support for students, but found themselves influenced by their own experiences and expectations, as well as factors of little national relevance. Teachers and students saw the Exhibition as an expression of the values and goals of the PYP Programme that developed the critical thinking of students through their questioning, and research skills. However, students valued the knowledge they constructed highly and this was not always recognized by other groups. The experience of inquiry learning was not the same in all classes, and in some, it was related to local expectations of good practice. As such, we argue each expression of inquiry is different, and valid in its context.
Hirsch, E.D. (1988) Cultural literacy: What every American needs to know. New York: Vintage Books Willingham, D. (2009) Why don’t students like school? American Educator, Spring 2009, 4-13 Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Penguin. Lüddecke, 2015 Lüddecke, F. (2015). Philosophically rooted educational authenticity as a normative ideal for education: Is the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme an example of an authentic curriculum? Educational Philosophy and Theory, Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131857.2015.1041012 Thomas, D. and Brown, J.S. (2011) A New Culture of Learning. London: Soulellis. Jin, L. & Cortazzi, M. (2006) Changing Practices in Chinese Cultures of Learning Language, Culture and Curriculum, v19 n1 p5-20
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