When planning is an inquiry…

We used to plan all the learning experiences in advance. If the entire unit is planned out in detail, where are the opportunities for learners to drive the inquiry? How do they take ownership of their learning and lead it in new directions?

We do, at my school, plan the big picture, of course. We build on where the learners have come from and ensure clarity on the conceptual direction. We know what we hope the learners will come to understand and the skills and dispositions required to support the learning. But plans are flexible and responsive to what the learners reveal. The individuality of the journey, the specific teachable moments, and the ways the learning might impact or transform each learner, depend on how the inquiry unfolds.

As we shift to an increasingly emergent model, the learning is becoming more meaningful. The more we take an inquiry stance, seeking to notice what our learners are curious about and how best they learn, the more competently we can support them in moving forward. The more thoughtfully we reflect on what is revealed, the more effectively we can respond.

When questioned recently about our strategic plan, I realised that this is also how we, as leaders at my school, plan. We know where we have come from and we can identify goals for moving ahead. And then what? We value the power of ‘what if’ and ‘how might we’ questions to provoke thinking, encourage dreaming and support our inquiry stance.

Here too, it seems our model is more emergent. The more attentively we observe and notice ourselves and others, the more we are able to explore possibilities. The more thoughtfully we reflect on the nuances of complex issues, openly examine tensions and actively disrupt the status quo, the more ready we are to experiment with innovative solutions. 

Creating a carefully laid out action plan in advance, with specific strategies and tasks, is not, it seems, our optimum style.

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