Last Updated on December 27, 2022
This post is part of a 4-part series highlighting how teachers can put the IB Learner Profile into practice and expand their learners’ consciousness.
As an IB teacher, you already know the unique challenges of teaching the pillars of the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile to your learners. Educating a new generation of citizens of the world means rethinking the process of value, attitude, and behavioral acquisition (Wells, 2011), and this is no small feat. With this in mind, how can you “develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world?” In other words, how can you, as a teacher, cultivate more conscious learners?
In the first installment of our series, we will discuss how inquiry supports consciousness.
Consciousness starts with a question. Questions spark discussion, but more than this, they are the root of all progress in this world. No great discovery has come without some curiosity. Successful scientists, for example, know from the earliest stages of their studies that phrasing the right question sets the entire course of the research, the hypotheses, and the expected outcomes of a research project.
This sentiment holds true across disciplines and careers.
In fact, “inquirers” top the list of qualities to develop in the IB learner profile, preparing learners for school and for a lifelong journey toward knowledge by becoming the kind of individuals who aren’t afraid to ask. Questioning inspires learners to take ownership of their learning journeys and empowers them to be proactive, rather than reactive learners.
Students who embody inquiry in the IB program:
- “…develop their natural curiosity.”
- “…acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning.”
- “…actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.” (IB Learner Profile)
Here are 3 easy-to-practice tips to help learners develop the lifelong skill of inquiry, and those essential soft skills that actively support inquiry:
1) Begin with the attitude that there are no “stupid questions” to foster intuitive curiosity and creativity
As children, our minds are filled with questions, and we ask them freely. “What is the shape of a star?” my niece asked me recently. Imagine asking this question as an adult. For any number of reasons – peer pressure, shyness, introversion, confusion, etc. – traditional schooling can often create an environment for less confident or outwardly reflective learners that makes it intimidating to maintain and mature their childlike curiosity in front of their peers.
So, no matter their age, let your learners question everything and remember that a growth mindset applies to the whole child. Unfiltered questions learners are prone to ask can foster their creativity with the guidance of a willing teacher (Chin, 2006).
2) Teach them about the importance of asking questions that transform their own thinking to craft their questions through problem solving.
With or without an answer, learning how to set a question is a worthwhile experience. Once we approach the concept of the question as a work in progress, we allow learners to experience the opportunity to develop exactly how to pose their own questions. In fact, pedagogies that immerse learners “in a learning environment that values questions” makes all the difference in their ability to ask “good quality questions” (Chin, 2006).
Students must be given the chance to understand how to effectively ask questions about wonders in their mind. This process stretches the limits of their problem solving skills. Eventually, with teachers that are willing to work toward this goal, learners become capable of asking “transformation questions.” These questions involve “re-structuring or re-organization” of their understanding (Chin, 2006) in a way that helps them “connect the dots” in a way that complies with their reasoning.
3) Expose them to the people that make them want to keep asking more and provoke them to think critically.
In a world of almost 8 billion people, what if you could connect your learners with the brightest minds and thought leaders that move our world forward, to answer their most profound questions? A circle of influence of those that are willing to hear learners’ musings and offer useful insight, can help learners make both academic and professional decisions that are less random and more thoughtful.
Having your learners exposed to many alternative answers to their questions, urges them to practice their critical thinking skills to filter the information they receive so they keep what makes sense to them. But that’s just “step one” in their learning journey: the greatest challenge is to follow up with the people who inspired them and question, even expand, the pieces of knowledge that the “mentors” shared.
Imagine, after all, that you could change the rules for education and reward your learners not for memorizing the answers, but for the questions they set. We’d be setting up this next generation to be more thoughtful and reflective in their own lives, and certainly more proactive toward solving the problems facing our joint future.
What would your learners’ first question be?