Our school is about 15 years old; since its inception the English department has had an independent study in the majority of its courses, often lasting the length of the entire course (18 weeks). Student choice and voice are usually manifested in the form of student choice over text, generation of topic, and construction of inquiry question(s), which leads to creating a thesis as a response.
What I really like about the proposal is the following:
-having students choose an authentic piece (instead of me demanding they all make a slideshow, write an essay, etc.)
-having students decide how they will make their learning public
-having students choose a variety of types of learning evidence (images, interviews, videos, podcasts, etc.)
I think incorporating some or all of these ideas will make the process and product a lot more authentic and meaningful, which would be awesome.
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I try to get the students talking about themselves right away. In any English class, I do a two-week diagnostic unit where they tell me a story about something meaningful that has happened to them. I'm trying to get better at giving more and more choice with each assignment but within guidelines. I've never gone to the deepest end of the swimming pool where the free inquiry lives, except in my extra-curricular activities that I manage. I run an online magazine called ODSS Paper & Ink and the students design the outcomes as long as they honour the student voices in our school. Wait....is that still a guideline? I think it is. Darn. I'm still not swimming in the deep end.
I think even free inquiry has guidelines and scaffolding provided by teachers. Somewhere in Dive Into Inquiry, T. MacKenzie says that the free inquiry model needs as much scaffolding as the other models, but that students can select (or adapt and modify) the scaffolding to suit their needs.
Explaining to students the process (the journey) and the overall idea of the goal (the finish line) is an important guideline, but it has to be more meaningful and authentic if students choose what each stage looks like (evidence of learning), as well as the product and the audience.
How have you handled student choice and voice in your learning environment until now? Do you see the steps in the Free Inquiry Proposal as essential or do you perhaps have another tried-and-true method for managing inquiry? Share your strategies for managing those unwieldy inquiry moments here.