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Parents Learn about Inquiry-based Learning

An evening session with Neil Stephenson
16 October 2012
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Author: Brooke Moore
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“Inquiry honours process and product”: this was Neil Stephenson's message to Rockridge parents last Thursday night. Stephenson’s, Delta's Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, talk went almost an hour overtime due to discussion with the engaged parents in attendance. In the end, we left with a message that good inquiry is a very teacher directed phenomena. It’s not “let them loose” – it’s a context of meaningful and engaging work.

This message reassured the parents who had voiced concerns around giving students too much freedom in their learning. “What about the facts?”, they asked. “At some point kids need to just be told stuff or else they won’t have knowledge to think critically about.”

Stephenson’s position is that there is a place for direct-teaching in an inquiry-based classroom. Parents visibly relaxed after he said that.

Inquiry takes critical thinking to a deeper level than knowledge transmission can offer. It means our students will become more independent, curious learners – a crucially important goal because we don’t know what kind of world they will emerge into as adults.

Thank you to Neil Stephenson for engaging with Rockridge parents; you gave us a good foundation on which to build further conversation. Thank you to the parents who attended for your thoughtful questions and curiosity. The evening reminded me that we must all experience and direct this shift in education together as students, teachers and parents.