Inquiry-based Teaching and Learning
Deeper Learning Strategies to Improve Engagement & Success
ISA schools build a rigorous college preparatory curriculum using a range of strategies and tools. Our Building a Culture of Planning module (see below) establishes the structures and practices necessary for the collegial development of lessons and an in-depth, ongoing review of student work.
The Successful Delivery of Instruction module (see below) integrates higher-order thinking, inquiry, and external learning experiences into the school’s instructional program and aligns with state standards.
The College-Ready Literacy modules implement reading and writing instructional practices across the curriculum and aligns with the rigorous reading and writing demands of college.
The Inquiry Mathematics modules help the school develop and implement a college-ready math program.
The Testing & Assessment module (see below) helps the school develop and implement a school-wide policy and strategy that prepares students for critical exams.
|Laying the Groundwork for Professional Planning||Principal and ISA Coach meet to:
Principal, ISA Coach and/or Leadership Team provide professional development to:
|Connecting the Planning to Data||
|Inquiring into Teachers’ Lesson Planning and Lesson Delivery
Connecting Lesson Planning to Long-term Learning Outcomes.
|Maintaining and Building on the Culture of Planning by Incorporating Technology and Inquiring into Assessments.||Technology leader and ISA Coach will:
|Inquiring into the Efficacy of Teachers’ Delivery of Instruction.
Improving Specific Teachers’ Classroom Management Skills
Building Up Teachers’ Cache of Instructional Approaches
|ISA Coach and Principal co-plan to directly support teachers’ delivery of instruction. They:
Principal and ISA coach co-lead professional development where whole staff:
Principal, supervisors, and ISA coach observe teachers, focusing on the specific area the teacher chose for improvement.
ISA coach and principal/supervisors co-plan peer observation initiative whereby:
Schools often feel they are forced to choose between two competing goals: high quality, engaging, inquiry-based instruction on the one hand, and preparing students for the state exams on the other. These two goals ostensibly seem to be in direct competition, since the former emphasizes depth over breadth of content coverage, and the latter typically stresses multiple choice questions and memorization rather than deep understanding. Since the exams are such high-stakes, often determining not just if an individual student graduates or moves on to the next grade, but also if a school, principal, or teacher receives passing or failing marks, schools often give up on inquiry-based instruction and surrender to the exams. Under-performing schools and schools with a high percentage of academically struggling students may especially feel like they have the most to lose if they do not let the tests dictate curriculum and instruction. However, the choice laid out above, between high quality instruction and “teaching to the test” is a false choice.
It is a false choice because inquiry-based instruction is proven to better prepare students for college, citizenship, and careers. The outcome of these three essential goals may not be as immediate as those of a high-stakes exam, but they are unquestionably high stakes as well, and cannot be abandoned in service of a one-shot exam. Furthermore, “teaching to the test” typically fails to accomplish the intended outcome. Rote memorization and uninspired curriculum does not necessarily translate to higher success on exams. Choosing between inquiry-based curriculum and test prep is not a real choice. Instead, the question that schools should be asking is: how can we use engaging, college-ready curriculum to prepare students for the exams as well?
At ISA we recognize that the exams are important, and that their outcomes have dramatic implications for schools and students alike, but by acknowledging that the tests are only one goal, and not the desired goal, schools can leave behind the false hope that exclusively “teaching to the test” provides. Instead they can focus on the challenge of how to accomplish both goals: rigorous college-ready instruction and high marks on state exams.
This module provides a roadmap for how schools can think strategically about the exams.
- First, ISA provides a lens for deconstructing what the exams actually expect students to know, be able to do, and understand.
- Then, working with coaches, we use results from an exam analysis to inform curriculum and instruction in the school, not just for exam-terminating classes but also for the entire school program.
- Later, we consider the different possible ways to organize the complete exam preparation approach within the school.
- Finally, we analyze student test results, consider the possible implications for exam preparation strategy, and consider appropriate modifications to curriculum and instruction.