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Discussion question: In what ways might inquiry disrupt the traditional idea of teacher as expert and learner as novice?

This has to be my #1 favorite and somewhat fearsome concept regarding the inquiry process in the classroom. Traditional teacher/student relationship stems from the teacher “master of the craft” and the student as “disciple in training”. But with inquiry, I think that things are better placed into perspective because the student in the inquiry process can become the teacher. This is a very liberating concept, which I think can scare a lot of educators back into their closets of direct instruction. It may seem “safer” in there and may enable them to conceal their own shortcomings, but additionally it keeps their students in the dark as well. Inquiry is taking our knowledge as educators and showing students that they are creative, bright, inventive members of society who can change the world around them and have something priceless to offer. This occurs because students in inquiry learn they have a voice, an opinion, and ideas that others, including their teacher, may never have perceived. I think that inquiry takes the much used quote “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” and applies it directly where it belongs…to our students. If we are always TELLING them the answers, how will they learn the skills needed to solve their own problems? If we are always MAKING them learn something, how will they cultivate a hunger and desire to discover for themselves something that is relevant and meaningful? I am no expert at inquiry in the classroom, but I have a strong desire to learn. I have witnessed the impact of inquiry in the classroom and know that though it is unorthodox to some, I believe it is a key to bringing students to a place of ownership and responsibility over themselves, their education, and their world. And if we stop and think for a moment, isn’t that the whole purpose of this establishment known as public education?

Discussion question: What “problems” do you encounter with your students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?

Problem??? The heart and soul of our CIG….and it’s one of the biggest issues facing a music teacher today – creating a quality music program in which the students not only show both motivation and determination, but that many students want to be a part of the program. So, what are the characteristics of a quality music program??? Is it measured by how many students are involved in your program, by how fun your class is, or by how well your band / chorus / orchestra performs??? These questions are constantly floating around in the minds of music educators because of one main concept – we are an elective, and students do NOT have to take us as a class!

So, as an instrumental / vocal / music teacher, you are doing a constant “balancing act” in order to keep your program afloat. You have to do your best at creating quality ensembles, while at the same time, not pushing the students TOO hard that they end up quitting the program. You want the students to enjoy creating music in your various ensembles, but you, as the director, also want to give them a musical experience that touches their soul that they want to create again and again. You want them to experience not only the power of quality music, but also the ramifications of a job well done. Some of the students in your program will want to be the very best ensemble that can be created, while many other students just want it to be fun and are just there for the experience.

Now, a “shared inquiry as an active quest”? Bottom line in my mind is this…all of the musical ensembles are the students’; we are just helping to guide the ship’s direction. So, wouldn’t a good starting inquiry question be one that asks the students what they hope to experience while being a member of this musical ensemble? I would also like to pose a question to the students asking them what THEY feel needs to be done to not only improve the quality of said ensembles, but also how to get more students involved. Maybe, if we’re lucky, the students might not only come up with ideas to improve the quality, but may also have some good ideas that will get more students involved…and hopefully, more motivation and determination!!!

Quote #2: “Collaborative inquiry typically involves an ongoing cycle of reflection, inquiry, and action specific to participants’ immediate contexts. Built on the belief that learning is active, social, and constructed, collaborative inquiry groups create dialogic and relational learning environments that challenge the traditional model of professional development where “experts” provide teachers with episodic updates” (Gates, 2010, p. 11).

Discussion question: How is your Arts Educator 2.0 collaborative inquiry group reflecting on themes that are relevant to the unique teaching contexts belonging to members of the group?


Our Collaborative Inquiry Group (CIG), “The Balancing Act,” will reflect on the theme of balance.  Based on prior experiences with ArtsEducator2.0, the members or our CIG individually and collectively agreed that we wanted to balance out what we had previously studied with regards to collaborative inquiry in our classrooms.

The members of our group can find similarities and differences within our individual teaching philosophies and methods, positions, experience, content areas, and in many other ways large or small we have yet to discover.  We have only one music teacher.  But, this teacher has the same age-level students as other members of the group.  We only have two high school teachers.  But those members teach the same content area as other members.  We have two teachers that work together in the same school.  But, through AE2.0, we can collaborate across several schools and districts.  We have four members who have worked together in the same CIG as last year.  But, we feel like we are an entirely new group with new members, a new focus, and new opportunities to share, learn, and grow.  This diversity makes for a well-rounded grouping of professional educators.  While we each have unique circumstances, we plan on bringing them together to form rich collaborative learning experiences.

Our individual research will fall under the general theme, but have individual purpose.  For example, some members felt like inquiry based teaching strategies were too “freeform” for their production expectations.  Others felt that they needed to create a more student-centered learning environment.  And still others plan to study balance from a different perspective.

My take on our theme has to do with how much “freedom” I should allow within the context of inquiry based learning with younger students.  This wondering is similar to some members of the group, yet differs from those who teach older students.  I find that I need to teach procedures for using stations and consider the physical classroom environment.  I need to give students instructions on how to work within the format of inquiry.  It needs to be centered on questioning techniques, research, discovery, and reflection.  I need to provide many more opportunities for this type of learning.  So, this year, I would like to work towards finding the balance between structure and freedom.  While I believe inquiry-based learning is a rich and fulfilling way for students to discover information on their own, I struggle with the idea that some concepts are concrete and require other instructional strategies.  I guess the essential sub-questions (for me) will end up being: When should I use inquiry-based learning strategies?, How do I decide what content is best suited for these strategies?, and In what ways can I teach technique, skill, or process using these strategies?  I look forward to researching our topic, implementing fresh ideas, and collaborating with my fellow arts colleagues.  What are your thoughts on these topics?  Do these same “problems” come up in your classrooms?


Just as a side note, I want to say that this quote very eloquently sums up how I feel about inquiry.

As soon as I read over Question #5 in our reading, I immediately began thinking about my 8th grade class.  Last year, they learned the art history timeline and how art evolved over time.  This year, I want to expose them to the many avenues of contemporary art and how art has been molded and formed in every way possible.  We have looked at the ephemeral natural sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy, silkscreened popular culture like Warhol, currently we are finishing a fashion project inspired by Alexander McQueen, and plans for installation and performance art are to come later on.  I want to expose my students to these things so that they understand that art is not just pencil and paper.  Artistic skill is more than how well you can use your hands.  There is a conceptual aspect to art, where ideas, emotions, and messages drive the production and creativity.

Installation, performance art, and any kind of conceptual art in general are intimidating to me because of the unpredictable that can and will occur in the classroom.  Conceptual art must include a deep interest and although I know my students to a certain extent, there is no way I can totally plan where their projects will end up.  Conceptual art in my mind is nothing but inquiry.  It leaves both the educator and student in vulnerable positions, working together to create one successful piece.  Collaboration, questions, research, multiple viewpoints, and knowledge on your topic are essential.  I want my students to dive into this.  They have been so excited to see what project is next because it’s stuff they’ve never seen before.  However, I am getting concerned that this is going to be way over their head.  I need to introduce these art forms without overwhelming them.  How can I get them to understand contemporary art without intimidating them first?  How can I get my students to appreciate the sophistication of these art forms and inspire them to really think about their artistic choices?  How can I manage a classroom where the possibilities could be endless, yet still feel structured?

This is my first attempt at this, and I am sure there will be a lot of trial and error.  I doubt I will be able to get everything I want to done within the semester, but with tweaks along the way I hope to have some smooth lessons by the end of the year.

Based on Quote #5:

“Inquiry-oriented work in which students position themselves as researchers provides an edgy and palpable means for disrupting the current policy/political climate, in which teachers are consistently positioned as the transmitters of others’ knowledge and students as the recipients”

(Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009, pp 15-16).

Discussion question: In what ways might inquiry disrupt the traditional idea of teacher as expert and learner as novice?

When I read this quote I was prompted to do an experiment in teaching. I decided to offer my students the chance to do my job, and I would be their assistant. My students eagerly signed up for the job as teacher. I gave them the required texts, required worksheets and told them to read ahead and research the material they were to teach. Much to my joy, the learning support student who was first did her homework! She used all the technology available to her and gave a great presentation of the materials. She encouraged the students to give her more information, she asked great questions! Much to my sadness, one of my “good” students just showed up, had the students read aloud, and didn’t even do the required worksheet at all! Our students presented an array of techniques from prepared power points to class discussion. This was a huge insight for me in the diversity of the way they like to learn. Classroom response was just as diversified, but predictable. Students who enjoyed teaching, taught well and their students performed well on an assessment. Students who “showed up” and didn’t put their heart into the assignment got an equal and disappointing assessments from their students.

I plan on continuing to offer this chance to be the teacher and hope that students learn from their classmates mistakes. I will also offer them more support in their preparation to teach. After all, don’t we learn more when we teach than when we just listen?  I will keep you updated to any further developments.

Problems are always changing from year to year and with each individual class.  As an elementary arts educator and teaching an estimated 40 different classes per week, various problems arise.  However, what one problem seems to always be there???  Day after day, week after week my students and I struggle with time.  We see each other for what is supposed to be 35 minutes, however this number begins to dwindle as you put into consideration many logistics – that we work bell to bell so there is no time to let one class out and the other in (we are down to 33 minutes), or if a teacher brings their class late (we are down to 31 minutes), or if students are making great connections with their thoughts or works and just can’t seem to get out of the door (we are down to 29 minutes), or taking attendance and getting the students calm (we are down to 28 minutes), or giving instruction – you get the picture.  Time- an ongoing “problem” that I’m not sure could be created into an inquiry idea for exploration.

With the limited time that we share, how can we open up inquiry based learning to young students and when do you use a more direct instruction based approach?  This is a common thread that “The Balancing Act” CIG will be exploring.  It will be interesting to see what the differences are between the elementary and high school levels.  Many people in my CIG have been inquiring a similar question to this in the past, they will be a great resource as I make hypothesis on what will and will not work in the elementary art room.

I feel that I am often inspired and/or learning from my students.  They make me want to take a new approach at techniques and ideas.  However, with inquiry in their hands it will take on a whole new level of learning for the “educator”.  Who is learning from who?  This changes the entire dynamics of a classroom and seems that it will create a high level of engaged learning for all.

In response to Quote #6 I would say that collecting relevant data to make instructional decisions is something that I have experience with.  Last year my CIG conducted an activity to get student input so that we would have an understanding of their overall thoughts on the project.  After the activity we averaged the scores and came up with our findings.

I found quote #1 the most relevant to myself at this point. I
actually wrote out a couple other responses but in reviewing what I wrote I
found that my response had more in common with the first quote. What “problems” do you encounter with your
students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?

I have an inquiry question that is
growing out of a problem. The problem is one that I see; though I don’t think
that my students would share my view. I believe that my students are
comfortable being complacent.

This year, I asked my students, “What
would happen if I put the sectional learning of parts into your hands? What
else might happen if you were to take over all the managerial parts of putting
together a show/concert?” They said things like, “just tell what you want me to
do or say.” and “Well that’s your job.” My students were, are comfortable
showing up doing their thing and being able to say it was all out of their
control. They like the comfort of down time during rehearsals. You know the time I am talking about, the
unaccountable time when another section is working parts.
So when I sent
each section to computers to work/learn their parts with their group they
grumbled and groaned. BUT… within the first couple minutes they were working
out part issues and learning together, solving problems. I only have 2
computers but I have 2 pianos and another student in each class that plays
piano and plays parts for their section. I now have a 3rd computer
and that means that I can rotate my students through the computers and have
each group perform what they have worked on for me. I can record them for them
to hear or for the class to hear. When we know a section we come together and
sing it as a group. This is allowing us to work on dynamics while they are
learning parts so when we put a section together it feels like it means
something. They have a taste of success doing this but still they are
comfortable with the “old way” and they are used to being not in control and if
something doesn’t go well… “It wasn’t their fault.”

As I have taken my inquiry into my
classroom over the last couple of years, I have asked my students to be
participators in the teaching as well as the learning. They resisted at first
but as they became comfortable with being uncomfortable (the old ways being
used less, and technology being used more) they grow excited about the learning
that is actually happening for themselves and their classmates. However, at the
beginning of the year; I mention turning more control on their learning to them
and they get frustrated, because it is dressed as work. They are afraid of
work, of maybe failing and being accountable. They have forgotten how fun the
journey was/can be.

The natural arc of the high school semester long art class currently puts my Art 1 students ready for a new direction. This group is made up of 2 large (20-30) classes. They are 9-12 graders with varying abilities, maturity, and attitudes. In the last 4 weeks they have been indoctrinated in Betty Edwards and the very technical, albeit expressive aspects of representing an experience with the natural world in a “realistic manner” using pencil and paper. They have grown in confidence as they have learned how artists see, as well as their way around the studio and materials. They have also gravitated into cliquish groups and many would now much prefer to visit with one another rather than “pose, develop and explore”.

What can I do to motivate my students to begin to approach their art experience with wonderings?

I began to develop such an exploration today, but once I read over Reading # 1, I immediately went back and began re-framing. For example, I originally wrote, Drawing Yourself as a Mythical Imaginary Creature, and re-framed it to, How can I draw a likeness of myself, that others will recognize as me, as a mythical, imaginary creature? We have already done drawings of ourselves in 3 different ways; I am hoping that they will naturally gravitate to one of those techniques to capture their likeness; they may even take a previous drawing and build from it. This is not as open ended as I would want, but I hope the next phase will be.

The next question I will pose is, How can I give my figure a sense of place/environment? I intend to apply 2 parameters.

  1. You may choose to work in collaboration with another artist or not, but each of your imaginary creatures must be included.
  2. Be a cooperative, productive member of your shared studio space. Return all materials to their proper areas/ bins/ drawers/ shelves and clean up all messes.

I plan to list the following available media:

  • Fabric/notions
  • Found objects
  • Various paints
  •  Various drawing materials
  •  Cardboard boxes
  •  Plaster craft
  •  Ipad, netbook, camera, zoom
  •  Printer/projector

I plan to prepare a presentation of various artists and styles. Expressly not within the theme of this exploration, but to suggest the myriad of ways this problem could be approached creatively. The next step would be to brainstorm. I hope to hear things like:

  • Photograph a 2 or 3D representation of my imaginary creature in a staged place using a camera/stop motion/video
  • Collage (hand done or photoshop/gimp)
  • 3D shadow box-found objects
  • Mural-large paper format-use ladybug
  • Installation-my piece could take up a corner of a room-include sound/video

It will be exciting to witness this as it unfurls in the classroom and share it on the blog. I welcome any feedback from my fellow AE in suggestions to make this exploration richer. I don’t feel that this plan supports my students in posing, developing and exploring their own questions. Yet, considering this group, I don’t think the majority is quite ready for such a leap. I hope that this exploration will open an avenue that makes the next exploration even more open ended.

Required Reading #1: Key Ideas about Inquiry

Sometimes the students just think too hard! The simplest challenge can be overwhelming because they are trying to do more than is needed; in looking “outside the box” they are wedging themselves into the corner. The idea of an artist block is frightening… your mind going blank and the frustration that goes along with that block. This is a problem that I feel shared inquiry can be used as an active quest. A student that is frustrated due to an artist block or is having difficulty coming up with the “right” idea can create a inquiry group to actively seek help/ ideas/ work out artist block outs/ vent frustrations and discuss what could and could not work in a piece . Kids that are working with similar materials, like concepts etc. can work together to solve their problems and reflect on the solutions they come up with.

Our CIG group, which was named “M and D” (Motivation and Determination) grew out of concern on how to motivate students in our classroom… how to encourage them to want to be creative and create and how to put forth effort to be successful. Our question was formed-

“What inquiry strategies can be incorporated to improve student motivation and effort in art and music classes?”

In discussing the most frustrating problems in our group (outside of budget cuts and administration), the group felt that getting students excited about art and motivated to create art was the biggest challenge. In visual arts, the student says that he/she sees no importance in learning about art and creating art- how do you motivate that student to open up to see that art touches our lives every minute of every day and that the creation of art is an outlet, a career and can encourage higher level thinking? In music, the problem continues with not only motivating the student to understand the importance of music, but to motivate them to practice to become better. We know that this is not just a concern in the arts, but in all areas. Our plan, through inquiry, is to develop strategies that will encourage and motivate students to become more productive in our classrooms.

I rely on many things in developing inquiry in my classroom. I feel that by getting to know my students personally and developing a rapport helps me to get them to open themselves to understanding art and the importance of art is very important. Use of visuals and tangible items such as prints, books, and artifacts (such as my artwork, artwork from collections, student artwork, items from my travels) stimulate inquiry in my art room. Technology has increased the level of inquiry, especially with the introduction of the I pad, ladybug document camera and the Zoom Q3 for documenting discussion and presentations. The students have access to these materials at all times and have increased our interaction. If a student has a more indepth question regarding an artist, art style, technique, etc. I will give them information where they can find more indepth info to answer their own questions and fill their own need

As an art teacher, I am always working closely with the students on developing their own ideas and concepts and making them “push the envelope” regarding the depth and production of their work. Instead of “telling” the students how to correct and improve on their artwork, I prefer to talk one on one or in a small group, such as students sitting at the table and randomly begin asking a few directed questions about colors, images, brush strokes, etc. Getting the students to begin talking about what they are “seeing” is the first step. Instead of the students asking me “Am I finished”?, I work with the student to formulate their own questions about the completed work where they ask themselves questions regarding the objectives of the project, techniques used, and understanding of the basic concepts. This means of inquiry is also used in small groups to determine if a student is truly finished with a piece of art and they can talk about the process in which the piece was created.

Inquiry changes the roles in the classroom- the teacher takes a passive role in the educational process and can, in many cases, become educated (in more ways than one!)as the students engage in the teaching aspect. The students become the active participants, asking questions, challenging information, etc. I think that a teacher needs to feel very comfortable and secure with the subject, the classroom environment, his/her self and the class to be able to permit inquiry oriented work. In my Asian Arts and Culture class last year, I used the inquiry-oriented approach for the students to become more global in their learning of Korean, Japanese and Chinese arts since it was only a semester class and the students had some many different interests! They researched information on the different arts and the techniques/traditions used to create the arts and them disseminated the information to the class, sharing not only the product, but also the rationale and history in its creation.

I feel that my area of “expertise” would be assisting the students in collecting appropriate data which would lend assistance in the learning process. With my opportunities to travel outside the United States and also with my students to art museums and galleries throughout eastern United States and my willingness to experiment with technology, I feel that I can work with the students in directing them to areas that would enhance their learning capabilities and open them to finding out more about topics, materials, cultures and art forms. These opportunities open more doors into inquiry and the willingness to learn.

Key ideas that are repeated in the six quotes from our first required reading all deal with inquiry- in the classroom, skills for developing and supporting inquiry, reflection and research.

The discussion question that is the most interesting to me at this time is “What problems do you encounter with your students that could stimulate shared inquiry as an active quest? I feel that this is a challenge to all of us in the classroom and as an art teacher I can get the students to become involved in collaborative inquiry.The key quote that I look forward to discussing with members of my group is #1because I would like to hear if and how they would work with students to stimulate shared inquiry.

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing.” (Maria Mitchell)
Inquiry Based Education allows students to explore outside the confines of a regular lecture situation. How would you be able to implement this quote into your classroom situation?

The key quote that speaks about the role of the teacher in facilitating inquiry with students is quote #4 “ Inquiry requires teachers and students alike to take up multiple roles and responsibilities within and across classroom activities…”
The teacher is working with the students through collaborative inquiry techniques and supporting the students to increase their learning in and outside the classroom.

The quote that inspires me is Quote #4 as it talks about teacher and students taking multiple roles and responsibilities, and encouraging and supporting students to create, develop and explore their own questions and find the answers. This quote is very encouraging to me as an educator as this is how I feel that teaching should be… not just lecture and instruction, but exploration to encourage learning.
The quote that I would consider controversial would be Quote #5, which compares the “traditional” classroom situation in which the teacher lectures and the students listen and there is no room for the students to challenge information and how inquiry oriented classroom encourages interaction and questioning/sharing of information.

So, you ask, what is my problem… my problem is that my students are curious about music… that’s what my problem is. You would think this is not a problem at all, but it really is. I teach elementary music and I have come to the conclusion that my students really want to learn more about music, but there is so much to the topic, I am sometimes not sure where to begin. How do I hand over control of a classroom full of students under the age of 11 and say “Ok. Here we go! What do you want to learn about?” I think we all know how that would end up. I know as a musician that the musical experience is meant to have a connection to those who create it as well is those who are listing to it. I have found that I sometimes struggle to create situations for my students that will allow them to have these personal musical experiences and further more when they are struggling when do I interject and does interject put the “personal” aspect of the piece in danger.

I believe that my CIG group this year has a strong desire in learning how to utilize inquiry in each of our classrooms but we are coming across some uncertain ground. Because most of us teach at the elementary level we are concerned with how to allow the students the ability to seek out the information on their own without chaos breaking into the classroom. Yet, others in our group, who are teaching at the secondary level, are looking further into the question of when does the “teachable moment” take place and when do you stop the student’s inquiry to interject knowledge. Because this entire process is circular, I believe that while the group is dealing with two separate issues the knowledge we each personally gain will be relevant to every member of our group.

I have come to the conclusion that I have never seen a more confused face than that of some of my students last year when I gave them a task that they would work on as a group and they would ask me if something in it was correct and I would respond with “I don’t know. What do you think?” I feel that sometimes in inquiry at the elementary level less is more, especially when they get to the upper grades. The students have become so dependent on a teacher telling them the answer that they don’t want to look for the answers on their own. So, while the student is confused by not receiving the answer when they asked for it, they are learning that it is permissible to seek out the answers for themselves. I know this seems like an odd way to offer support, but I find the sooner they learn the lesson that they are allowed to try different paths to get to their solution the better off they will be. I suppose I am referring to independence from adults and knowing that we are there to help, but the students has to want to grow first.

Challenge is a word that I absolutely love. It is something that I seek personally and professionally for myself on a daily basis and it is something that I push for my students. Frequently as my students are working on pieces I will stop them and ask them to explain to me where they are in their inquiry and process/actions that brought them to that exact moment and then I usually ask them a question that begins with the phrase. “Did you consider…” This usually turns into a moment of realization for the students and they go back project at hand. I would consider the skill of asking knowledgeable questions about a students work a strength that I have and continue to use it to challenge them on their quest.

January 2020
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