Thoughts from my own inquiry…

A random tweet takes me to Smarthistory, a treasure trove of podcasts and screen-casts of conversations around works of art. I find myself drawn into an exploration of the site and totally lose track of time.

I share the site with Clive, a friend who happens to be online at the time, and he chooses to search for Pissarro, his favourite artist. He asks if I knew that Pissarro painted one of his daughters just before she died and never finished the painting. Intrigued by the story, I go off in search of more information

Along the way, I uncover this interesting piece on how the Impressionists got their name. I love Impressionist paintings and was lucky enough to visit Musee d’Orsay in Paris a few years ago, but I have never studied art history and confess my knowledge is somewhat limited. So I’m enjoying this personal inquiry and it keeps me up late.

In the morning I find some tweets from Clive with links to more information. His curiosity has been sparked too and he plans to return to the Ashmolean Museum where he first saw Pissarro’s work to see what else he can uncover. Apparently during the 1950s and 1960s, this museum became a centre for the study of Impressionism, thanks to the donation of the Pissarro family collection, comprising paintings, prints, drawings, books, and letters by members of the Pissarro family.

I share my latest discovery with Clive, a video of a talk on Pissarro’s life and works. I watch it slowly, when I have the time, and learn about Pissarro’s influence on the more famous Impressionists. The speaker says of the artist…”What a real talent it is to find in a teacher someone who can learn from his students.” Indeed.

At some point I realise I have forgotten about the daughter entirely. I’ll wait to see what Clive comes back with. I’m an inquirer. Clive’s an inquirer. It seems Pissarro was an inquirer. How do we ignite the curiosity of our students so that they will be inquirers too?

Some reflections to take back to school…

Oh wait. I knew all of that already. A couple of them are even learning principles of my school! I often express these very points to teachers, when we’re planning units of inquiry. So, it’s interesting and validating to analyse my own learning (and Pissaro’s!) in terms of my stated beliefs.

12 thoughts on “Thoughts from my own inquiry…

  1. Hello Edna
    Thanks for the reminder it’s okay for teachers to be inquirers themselves. Your post is an invitation for us to follow our passions and interests, and what a great opportunity this could be for us to reflect on the process of learning: thinking about our own thinking and learning is a good foundation stone for building our teaching craft.
    So, an inquiry might do a fair bit of meandering and revisiting. I wonder if I allow my students the opportunities for this? The wise leader of my junior school told me “the inquiry is never finished Brette.”
    I wish that my school had formulated learning principles as yours has. Are these the foundation stones for an ongoing inquiry? Can your colleagues question, debate and add to your learning principles, and is this an ongoing process?


    1. Hi Brette… Love your comment 🙂
      OK for teachers to be inquirers? I think it’s essential! I loved this sentence “thinking about our own thinking and learning is a good foundation stone for building our teaching craft.’! I think THAT is essential too. And yes, it was a wise leader who told you the inquiry is never finished. The whole idea of teaching/learning a topic, having a test, then being finished with that learning doesn’t make much sense in terms of real life, does it?
      Best of all your last paragraph is making me think! I have to take it back to school for further thought, discussion and yes, inquiry! Why don’t you start the process at your school? I’d be happy to share how we went about articulating ours.


  2. Hi Edna,
    Once again you have pushed my thinking! How do we spark that fire of curiosity in our students! The students I see, the ones that get plonked into my LRC, have a dullness in their tone when explaining what they will be inquiring about. They are already planning the poster (be it hardcopy or glogster). It is a task that must be done, not a passion that must be pursued. Admittedly these students are the ones the teacher has often found too tricky, the ones who quite often just don’t get it (that’s a whole other topic – how to get the ones that do get it to drift into my LRC- I’m sure that ball is in my court!).
    We like to think that students will pursue their personal inquiries (the passions that must be followed), but often they are the students who get it – they are naturally curious. I realise that for some, it is developmental, that the light may turn on long after they have left us; but it is often quite depressing to think we will never know. But for those who are simply marking time, the ones not inspired, what can we do?


  3. Hi Edna
    Every time I open your blog I am challenged and inspired. I too will be discussing the idea of learning principles at my school. It is actually only this year that I have truly come to the realisation that inquiry doesn’t stop as I see students in my class continue to take action throughout the year. It has been really exciting to feel that our units are evolving in and out of each other as the students make connections. This is my third year in an IB school and after 25 years in the profession I am reinvigorated by the curriculum we offer.
    I question that I don’t allow enough time for the inquiry to evolve and really connected with your statement about time and patience. Perhaps we worry too much about moving the children on!


  4. Hi Mandy
    Thanks so much for the lovely feedback. I totally agree about working in a PYP school reinvigorating veteran teachers and learners! It’s so exciting being a learner and an inquirer as well as a teacher. One of my colleagues said the PYP made her clever 🙂
    You’re right…every teacher I know worries about time and moving kids on and getting through everything. What a shame that’s how learning has to be approached. How do you feel about the demands of the Aus national curriculum on top of the rest?


    1. Hi Edna,

      There are elements of the National Curriculum particularly History and Science, that we intend to audit our UOI to ensure we cover through the inquiry. I am happy to see the emphasis on grammar and literature in English becuase I think these are important.
      We are lucky in Victoria because VELS is very similar which allows us to transition easily, particularly in the Primary section. I think opportunities to audit our curriculum is always good so I don’t really see it as an extra but an opportunity to review what we do to see how we can do it better.


  5. Hi Edna,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your personal inquiry and your list of reflections. I’ve just had October break for a week and found myself spending a lot of time following my own inquiries online wherever they took me. I was motivated and inspired and the interest kept me going for hours. I’m taking your list back to school tomorrow to remind me that inquiry and wonder are not limited to my interactions with kids, but can enrich conversations and discussions with my colleagues as well as my reflections on my own teaching. A number of years ago, I played with the PYP concepts as a thinking tool to explore different aspects of any issue. It helped me recognize the power of problem-posing and looking at things from different perspectives. I’ve been with PYP ever since the very beginning and there have been many “developments” along the way. Thankfully, your posts describe the PYP as I think it was intended to be.


    1. Hi Paulette

      I feel quite strongly that to be a good inquiry teacher, you have to be an inquirer yourself. (Too many are not, unfortunately). Using the key concepts as a lens through which you explore an issue is great, isn’t it? I got a class of Year 6 students last week to ask questions about the topic at hand through the lens of each of the concepts. What an incredible conversation! They came up with great questions I wouldn’t have thought of and responded to each other with comments like “No, I think your question is more perspective than function because…”
      Thanks for the comment and support!


  6. Hello Edna,
    I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am in the EDM 310 class and was assigned to comment on your blog. I am glad I was, I find your blog, in fact, inquiring.
    Your blog sparks my curiosity, it makes me want to go out and keep searching for the things I have thought of and questioned. I like your blog, it inspires me to think and keep thinking. Keep up the great writing! It is wonderful.


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