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Lesson Plans

Curriculum issues - inquiry

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Roxanna May-Thayer (
09 Apr 97 16:29:07 +0000

This is a response to the "Our Place in the World" on-line seminar.

Whenever I find myself being the only voice in the classroom, I can't help =
but notice the glazed over eyes, the heads down on the tables, and the =
deep sighs from bored art students. Many years ago, my district had our =
staff take a series of in-service classes on Madeline Hunter's Essential =
Elements of Effective Instruction. If my memory serves (and occasionally =
it does) I believe that inquiry methods were placed in a catagory called "=
active participation". Even though I have used inquiry methods in my =
classroom and have found them to be very interesting and productive, I =
confess that I easily fall back on the model that I was taught with. I =
have heard this old model referred to as a "front-loading" method and I =
picture a teacher shoveling information down the throats of mostly =
unwilling students (there always seem to be a few that are too polite and =
compliant to whine). Teachers who are determined to "cover" material may =
still use this method but what about results? What are the students =
learning? When I find myself front-loading and finally stop long enough =
to ask a question or try to involve ths students, I am usually met with =
dead silence. If I could read the student's minds, I would probably hear "=
Who cares?" On these occasions it becomes painfully clear that I only =
THINK I'm teaching.

When I use inquiry strategies, it is rarely a formal format. The structure =
is almost more conversational because my goal is to try to get my students =
actively involved in thinking and talking about what they are doing in =
studio by articualting ideas. I attempt to plant seeds that inspire them =
to ask questions of themselves and each other. When we view slides or =
prints as a class or dig out a book for a one on one or small group =
discussion, I try to view the art work as if I had never seen it before =
and know nothing about it. That way I can model aesthetic viewing/=
questioning strategies/inquiry processes by participating in the "wow, do =
you notice that?" and "I wonder what...?" and "what do you think...?". Onc=
e again, I think that my strategies are learned by experiences with inner-=
city youth and the tendancy for many of them to balk at a more formal =
structure. Many of my students are not confident enough to even =
conjecture an idea let alone risk expressing an opinion about an art work =
in front of their peers. Students that don't speak English are left =
completely out of any class discussions so smaller, informal conversations =
(with dictionary in hand and hopefully a student who is willing to =
interpret) work better in some teaching situations. =

I have tried many of Mary Erickson's questions straight from her =
curriculum models in my classes and I find that I have to do alot of =
redefining and interpreting before my students can understand the question.=
Unfortunately, I think that it stems from their inexperience with open =
ended questions that ask them to process ideas instead of regurgitating =
facts. They seem to be very uncomfortable with questions that don't have =
ONE CORRECT ANSWER. After some practice, and alot of patience on my part, =
many of my students enjoy learning like this. I think they like it when a =
good guess is o.k. and I never say, "You're wrong." Instead, my responses =
are "Good thinking!" and "You're ideas are so interesting, where do you =
think you got that?" or "Interesting.....does anybody else have a =
different idea?" These exchanges of ideas can be very validating and =
stimulating for students who otherwise might be content to stay on the =