Article by Alex Rambaud
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein
One of the most fundamental aspects of the International Baccalaureate is realizing that, regardless of what stage you are in your life, we are all “life-long learners”. This forward-thinking concept is not only empowering but opens the door to myriad opportunities, whether you are a student, a parent or an educator.
How do we maximize our students’ learning potential? What process do we use in the IB in order to facilitate learning? How do we apply this process to our everyday lives?
The answer is simple and yet quite complex: inquiry.
Inquiry is the vessel that IB teachers use to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge in their students. Inquiry allows students to create their own questions and choose their own learning journeys, thus acknowledging their own personal interests.
While the idea of inquiry-based learning directly challenges older, more traditional ways of passing down knowledge, such as rote learning, its effectiveness is hard to deny.
The results of a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom showed that early education learners between four and five years of age, tend to ask up to three hundred and ninety questions per day1. Deducing that a child’s curiosity drives his or her need to ask questions seems rather logical. By creating opportunities for the students to ask questions about a certain idea, we are nurturing the students’ inquisitive nature.
However, how do we create these engaging opportunities? How do we awaken our students’ interest on a certain topic and pave the way for them to construct relevant questions? This is when the teacher’s role as a facilitator comes comes into play. As IB educators we are required to create the right types of provocations to tap into the students’ curiosity. A simple yet impacting video clip, a moving song, an awe-inspiring field trip, a powerful photograph or poster, a meaningful game or school activity are all creative ways of instilling curiosity.
The enquiry cycle does not end once the students have asked their questions and embarked on their research. Collaborating during the research phase and later sharing the product of their research is equally important. These phases are necessary stepping stones for learners to hone their collaboration and communication skills.
Once the students have shared and reflected upon the results of their research, they are encouraged to take “action” and apply their newly-found knowledge in real-life situations. Action can be represented by simply becoming more conscientious in the way that we behave towards one of the many problems that our world faces, or going as far as getting involved or even starting their own inquiry-driven actions with the goal of creating positive social change.
Finally, the cycle of inquiry does not end with the action phase and should be left open, as there will always be opportunities for further questions and research. Undeniably so, this concept represents a persistant challenge for IB teachers, who are constantly juggling time constraints imposed by their schedules and curriculum-related requirements.
Nevertheless, it places the necessary amount of importance on developing a student’s ability to lead through inquiry.
1The Telegraph. 2013. Mothers Asked Nearly 300 Questions a Day, Study Finds. (ONLINE) Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (Accessed 9 March 2017).
Alex Rambaud is a French and Salvadorian national (yes, he has dual nationality) who has been residing in Xi’an for the past 8 years. He is a certified EAL teacher, a polyglot, a musician, a husband, a proud dad and a cook. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and serves as the Vice Principal at Xi’an Liangjiatan International School. If you would like to contact Alex, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org