National Louis Hosts Inquiry-Based Teaching Workshop
By Robert Schroeder
Common Core standards are demanding teachers to rethink the ways they teach critical thinking skills. For Illinois social studies teachers, the focus centers on the relationship between skill acquisition and content, a partnership at the heart of a professional development co-hosted by National Louis University.
National Louis University and five community partners are hosting Bruce VanSledright, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, for a discussion and roundtable on strategies for implementing inquiry-based practices into history education Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 6-9 p.m. at the Chicago History Museum. A video recording will be available on Friday, November 4 on National Louis University's Facebook page.
As social studies departments grapple with not-fully defined Common Core standards, National Louis University's Charles Tocci, Ed.D., says teacher knowledge of inquiry-based skills is critical for Common Core standards schoolwide.
"Within schools, we see social studies departments pushed to the margins as subjects accountability rests on are centered," said Tocci, assistant professor in the National College of Education."Inquiry in history class really opens things up; it engages students in content area literacy but also in a set of skills they need in other classes."
Inquiry-based education moves away from memorization of names and dates and focuses on engaging in debate, locating sources, reading primary sources, building arguments and engaging in content-area literacy. Current Common Core standards in Illinois for social studies curriculum, which are appendices to the English standards, focus on the reading of primary sources and skills advancing the building of arguments and proof.
VanSledright, who has taught in elementary, middle and high schools as well as undergraduate and graduate courses, will examine tactics and strategies used by teachers implementing inquiry-based teaching methods in classrooms. The lecture will be followed by a roundtable with four Chicago Public Schools teachers who are currently employing inquiry-based strategies. Tocci says he hopes teachers will gain skills preparing students for this new approach and knowledge of a scaffold process for implementation.
Teachers face several challenges adopting inquiry-based teaching practices. Much of the changes may come about in ways a teacher prepares their own practice; the level of change to engage students in research and argument-based tasks could be as small as changing around terminology or as significant as adopting completely new practices. However, Tocci sees department-wide structural changes as having a greater impact. A focus on inquiry-based learning can have an impact on a number of other departments: research skills and information literacy connect with librarians' work, forming arguments and citing sources fits with English curriculum, and drawing on primary sources may touch on a number of other subjects in a school building.
"The capacity to do high quality, stimulating, engaging educative history requires all of us to be in action together," Tocci said. "I'm hopeful that with a lot of interest we can use this moment to move forward and use this opportunity to bring parties together to do this work."