Building an Inquiry Mindset

The following is a guest blog post from Trevor MacKenzie. Trevor is a high school teacher at Oak Bay High School in the Greater Victoria School District in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is the author of the best selling inquiry resource Dive into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice. His upcoming release Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners (co-authored with Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt) is all about bringing the power of inquiry to our K-7 classrooms in accessible powerful ways. In this post, he discusses how he built an inquiry mindset with a poetry assignment on Flipgrid.

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Inquiry is at the heart of my teaching. It provides learners with a personalized experience, challenges them to reflect, stretch, and share their thinking, and better prepares them for the world as creative and curious and collaborative individuals. Finding creative ways to support learners in capturing, reflecting, and sharing their learning is a large part of my role as the inquiry teacher. Cue the beautiful synergies between my work in supporting teachers in adopting an inquiry approach and the powerful benefits of Flipgrid.

Flipgrid has helped me support my students in making their thinking visible, the action of willingly and powerfully sharing their opinion, their understanding, their skills and their talents with others. Case in point, this semester I challenged my students to write and perform an original SLAM poem that would represent the topic of “identity.” What I thought was a creative and exciting learning opportunity was met with uncertainty, nervousness, and, dare I say it, anxiety from students about performing their poem in front of their peers. So I decided to empower them in this process by giving them the option of performing their poem live in front of the class or on Flipgrid. I hoped that by giving them this voice and choice they would feel more confident in sharing their poem. However the benefits I discovered in using Flipgrid in this activity were so much more than merely students gaining some confidence.

Students used Flipgrid to rehearse and hone their skills prior to posting their poem - behaviours that I didn’t witness from students who performed for the class in realtime. They would rehearse, capture their performance, reflect on their recording and redo the piece prior to sharing countless times. The grit they demonstrated was awesome! Once their poems were all shared they left feedback to one another’s pieces and celebrated each other's performances. The authentic praise, organic networking, and powerful support without me manufacturing it all was surreal to witness. And finally, they demonstrated poise and mastery in their spoken language skills - they rocked it! Their poems were genuinely stronger than they would’ve been if they performed nervously in front of the class. Collectively these benefits all drastically impacted my assessment of their SLAM poems resulting in overall higher scores, higher student achievement and engagement, and a greater sense of pride in their work.

At its essence, inquiry is about exploring student wonders, curiosities, and questions. It’s about empowering students in the classroom to capture, to reflect, and to share their learning. It’s about nurturing the learning conditions that will eventually help us explore their passions and wonders in authentic learning experiences with the world around us. This activity and how the students leveraged Flipgrid to support their learning needs demonstrated this for us all. I couldn’t be more proud of my kids and more thankful to Flipgrid!

Check out a few examples of Trevor's incredible students at work, shared with their permission: