It’s hard to run an inquiry-based classroom. Don’t go into this teaching style thinking all you do is ask questions and observe answers. You have to listen with all of your senses, pause and respond to what you heard (not what you wanted to hear), keep your eye on the Big Ideas as you facilitate learning, value everyone’s contribution, be aware of the energy of the class and step in when needed, step aside when required. You aren’t a Teacher, rather a guide. You and the class find your way from question to knowledge together.
Because everyone learns differently.
You don’t use a textbook. Sure, it’s a map, showing you how to get from here to there, but that’s the problem. It dictates how to get ‘there’. For an inquiry-based classroom, you may know where you’re going, but not quite how you’ll get there and that’s a good thing. You are no longer your mother’s teacher who stood in front of rows of students and pointed to the blackboard. You operate well outside your teaching comfort zone as you try out the flipped classroom and the gamification of education and are thrilled with the results.
And then there’s the issue of assessment. What your students have accomplished can’t neatly be summed up by a multiple choice test. When you review what you thought would assess learning (back when you designed the unit), none measure the organic conversations the class had about deep subjects, the risk-taking they engaged in to arrive at answers, the authentic knowledge transfer that popped up independently of your class time. You realize you must open your mind to learning that occurred that you never taught–never saw coming in the weeks you stood amongst your students guiding their education.
Let me digress. I visited the Soviet Union (back when it was one nation) and dropped in on a classroom where students were inculcated with how things must be done. It was a polite, respectful, ordered experience, but without cerebral energy, replete of enthusiasm for the joy of learning, and lacking the wow factor of students independently figuring out how to do something. Seeing the end of that powerful nation, I arrived at different conclusions than the politicians and the economists. I saw a nation starved to death for creativity. Without that ethereal trait, learning didn’t transfer. Without transfer, life required increasingly more scaffolding and prompting until it collapsed in on itself like a hollowed out orange.