Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dave Truss on Inquiry (Thought Leader Interview)

Dave Truss
Dave Truss is an educator (Vice Principal) with the Learning Innovations Network, Coquitlam Open Learning (COL), School District #43 in BC, Canada. Dave shared his thoughts and writes about Inquiry in a way that makes it easy to understand. Kathleen McClaskey and I asked Dave some questions about the Inquiry Hub and personalized learning. He shares how his school will fit well with the BCedplan and the future of education in their Province. It fits well with Coquitlam’s School District’s collaborative work on “Learning Without Boundaries." 

Read his next interview about the Inquiry Hub where he is the Lead Administrator and projects designed by learners.
Q. What is The Inquiry Hub? Can you tell us how and why it was developed?
The Inquiry Hub was inspired by conversations around our district vision of “Learning Without Boundaries”.  Coquitlam District Principal Stephen Whiffin envisioned the Inquiry Hub as a natural extension of our program. Stephen is Principal, and I am Vice Principal, of Coquitlam Open Learning, which offers online and blended courses for high school students, as well as to adults looking to graduate or upgrade courses. As part of the student population of Coquitlam Open Learning, Stephen noticed that we were getting more and more school-aged students that were moving away from their day schools and choosing to take full online course loads. However, this wasn’t necessarily an ideal situation, but rather a choice not to attend a local high school.. The Inquiry Hub was born out of the idea that there are students who don’t necessarily ‘fit’ in a traditional high school, but would benefit from having a school to go to daily, rather than just choosing to take courses online.
The Inquiry Hub will offer Grade 8-12 students whom chose to come to this school:
  • Instruction which blends classroom and online experiences in a hybrid model
  • A student-driven inquiry approach to learning
  • Significant reduction of formally structured class time and emphasis on a learning commons where students do daily group project work and individual, computer-based learning
  • Class environments which group students around interests and project focus rather than grade levels
  • Extensive use of peer mentorship in cross-grade project work
  • Core, inquiry-based program offerings which are extended through the extensive list of COL online courses

Q. Can you explain the student-driven inquiry approach to learning?
We are working on the simple premise that if we help students develop meaningful and engaging questions around their own interests, passions and ideas that matter to them, then the learning will be rich and meaningful to our entire learning community. By helping students connect, create and learn together, we will encourage them to look outside of their box and seek a world of potential.
“The power of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning.” Neil Stephenson http://teachinquiry.com/
 Q. How do you help students understand how they learn best?

Thinking about thinking (metacognition) will be something all students explore at the Inquiry Hub. We are currently developing two ‘requisite’ courses that we’ll have every student take when they join us, regardless of the grade they come to us. One of these courses will be “Principles of Inquiry” which will look at domains of inquiry, question development and research design. The other course will be “Applications of Digital Learning” which will explore social networking (and creating a positive digital footprint), learning management systems, search & research, and principles of digital presentation. We will be working with expert educators in these fields to develop these courses over the coming months.

Also, we won’t be having traditional styled classes but instead we will have workshops on specific topics and a significant part of the day that will be designed by students in collaboration with teachers and other students. We will have two larger learning commons areas and also smaller conference rooms that groups of students can work in. Students are empowered to work with other students, meet with their teachers or use their time working independently. We will work with students to figure out a balance of freedom in their schedule with effective use of time, with more freedom provided for students that are self-directed and more guidance for students that work best with that kind of support.

Q. How do you design learning paths for each student? How do students pursue their own interests and have a voice in the direction of their learning?

At the Inquiry Hub we will encourage students to explore their own questions from key themes:
  • Community and global issues
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Media Art, design and technology

In the spring we will be working with teachers to examine the key learning outcomes in the BC curriculum and determine which ones can be incorporated into student driven inquiry and which ones we will support through workshops and online resources. Our goal is to maximize how much of the required curriculum can be covered and uncovered through student inquiry. As students develop and answer their own inquiry questions, teachers will consult and advise students as to how they can incorporate curricular outcomes into their projects.
We also want to provide students with a voice that extends beyond the school, and we are looking for creative ways to involve parent and community groups/members in extending inquiry questions beyond the scope of the school. We hope to foster relationships such that the Hub is just a launch pad for projects that involve doing things in the community that matter and make a difference. 
Q. What technology will students access and use to demonstrate evidence of learning?
Every student will be expected to bring their own laptop, (which we can supply if there are financial issues), and students are also welcome to bring any other devices they wish to use to connect and network as well as share what they are doing online.  We are currently looking at different kinds of digital portfolios and learning management systems that would best work within our school district and also serve as an online learning hub for all of our students and staff.
 Here’s a presentation about The Inquiry Hub’s website:

View more PowerPoint from David Truss
We are going to follow up with Dave with a podcast asking him about  Truly Questioning Everything. Thanks Dave for sharing your thoughts and helping us define why we need to question everything.

Contact information for Dave:
Blog: Pair-a-Dimes for Your ThoughtsWeb: DavidTruss.com – Presentations – CVContact: David TrussTwitter: @datrussLinkedIn: Dave Truss