Trevor MacKenzie is an experienced teacher, author, keynote speaker and inquiry consultant. His passion is supporting schools in implementing inquiry-based learning practices.
Well, hi everyone. And welcome again to the effective teaching podcast. I’m your host, Dan Jackson. And today I am, once again with Trevor McKenzie, we’re looking at his second book inquiry mindset. This is one of our book club episodes of what you will learn from inquiry mindset. I’m going to chat to Trevor about this book. This is his second book that he published, and it is a bit more targeted to our primary and elementary teachers. But again, this is the second of his three books and his third book is coming out on the 15th of May available on Amazon. So you can find out more about that when you come and check out the show notes, which you can get @teacherspd.net/im.
Well Trevor. Thank you so much for joining me again to talk about your second book. They were going to be talking about inquiry mindset. Can you just tell us a little bit about the differences between this book and your previous books that you’ve written dive into inquiry?
Yeah. Thank you, Dan. Thanks for having me back. You know, dive into inquiry was, was written for all educators. In, in my mind, you know, I didn’t write it for high school teachers or elementary school teachers. But as I slowly started to see the book, get a response and I started to visit more schools around the world. You know, the hands that tended to go up in those workshops were more from primary teachers or elementary school teachers, which really told me I needed to write a different book for that audience. And there’s some amazing elementary educators or experts of inquiry that have been nurturing that community of elementary school teachers for decades, years. And so this book is really an addition to that field of work. Inquiry mindset really is for elementary school teachers. And with a specific lens on, on, on, you know, really nurturing our students’ curiosities their interests and, and keeping their curiosities at the heart of learning across their learning experience. So when I see them as a high school teacher you know, their curiosities aren’t stifled, they are, you know, squelch, they are something that I could leverage at the high school setting. Dan, so inquiry mindset really is for the elementary school audience and really trying to bridge curiosity across the student’s experience.
Okay. And so how, how do we then do that? How do we do that with our private school students? What’s, what’s the process that we should be going through or,
Yeah, well, the process is similar to dive into inquiry. You know, I, I’m a big proponent of scaffolding. I’m a big proponent of course in terms of not throwing our kids into the deep end of inquiry towards free inquiry too soon or too fast. And you know, I’m a big proponent of observing students in learning, you know, watching them and listening to them and providing the conditions so that we can kind of harness their thinking, harness their curiosities and plan learning around what it is that we’re observing. So at the primary years that could look like many things, you know, one rich tool in the inquiry teacher’s tool belt at the primary years is, is the of provocation. And how do we spark wonder and curiosity, whether it’s with loose parts or a station around the classroom where the station is designed for engagement, the station is designed for students to get talking and thinking and collaborating and give us an opportunity to observe and watch and document questions and kind of plan next steps.
Provocation could be a really compelling image, a video, you know, it’s kind of funny in the inquiry world. Provocation could, could mean anything that sparks engagement and curiosity, but what follows from that engagement and curiosity is, is pivotal. You know, harnessing the students’ questions and having those questions kind of shaped some of our lesson design, some of our research, what are we going to read? What are we going to, who are we going to talk to? Who are we going to connect with? Where are we going to go quick, quite, quite honestly, physically, where are we going to take our learning to answer some of these student generated questions? And at the primary years, having students interests, curiosities, shape questions, and then shape the design of learning, the next steps is a key piece of the inquiry mindset.
And so throughout all this there, how do you have four pillars that you talk about when you talk about these in both books, how do you four pillars then coming to this process?
Yeah, so the four pillars of inquiry are four different entry points into more personalized learning, you know, free inquiry is kind of where students experience the most agency, the most space to make some really rich and relevant and authentic decisions around their learning. And the four pillars represent four different entry points for students to get to that really relevant, meaningful, personal inquiry. And so the four pillars, one is exploring a passion, you know, something you’re really, really interested in. And you know, I always have students, especially at the younger years who have a passion you know, something that if I were to catch them doing something fun on the weekend, it would be this thing. But sadly not all of our students have a passion. You know, I think passions require a lot of support from home. A lot of guidance, a lot of time to have this thing turn into something that a student loves.
So another pillar is, is, is a curiosity. You know, what are you interested in? What are you curious about? What’s a question you’re thinking about given this provocation, what, where does your mind want to go together? You know, another entry point another pillar is, is taking on a new challenge. You know, all students want to learn something new and some students it’s learning how to play the guitar. Some students it’s learning how to design a virtual reality landscape, you know, an immersive experience. And that particular entry point taking on new challenge allows students to begin to cultivate a personal inquiry that is rooted in that really deep, honest, intrinsic motivation, you know, taking on that new challenge and learning something for myself. And then the fourth pillar is, is, you know, it’s setting a goal, aiming a goal. You know, some students have goals of, of, you know sharpening a second language.
Some students have a goal of, of fostering change in the world around them. Maybe it’s with regards to sustainability or positively impacting global warming. And these students choose a relevant, personalized goal. And then they plan learning to hit that goal, meet that goal. You know, all four of those pillars obviously reflect a very unique entry points into that agency, rich end of the pool, a personal inquiry, free inquiry. And that’s what we’re aiming for is, is an equitable entry point a space for all of our students to see themselves in that type of agency, rich experience. So the four pillars, it’s a sketch note that actually hangs in my class at hangs in many of the classrooms I support in inquiry around the world as a visual cue, as a visual prompt to guide students through these equitable entry points. So they’re choosing something that is going to be meaningful to them and also relevant to them and then achievable to them. They’re going to be able to succeed in achieving whatever it is that they are planning for themselves. So those in a nutshell, that’s that that’s the four pillars of inquiry.
Yeah, I really liked them too, because even as a teacher, it helps to guide the kind of questions that I asked to get to know my students too. I can ask specific questions relating to each of those pillars. And then I can utilize those in anything that I’m doing with my students, because once you know that about your student, if you know their goals, their passions, things they’re curious about, it enables you to be flexible in the way you design your curriculum so that they can foster their curiosities and help them to develop their inquiry mindsets. As you said, even in the non-free inquiry processes, they can still utilize and be active in those. Can you share finally a little bit about why it’s so important for us to be fostering this inquiry mindset with, particularly with our younger kids in primary school and elementary?
Yeah. You know, I, I don’t think I could pick just one reason. Dan. I think there are
A few, give me a few, you know,
You know, one reason is all too often, I see disengaged students at the high school level. I see students who walk into a high school setting and they just want to be told what they’re going to have to demonstrate what they’re going to have to do to get, to get the letter grade. And, and to be honest, that’s just not good enough for me as a high school teacher, I want to teach it, or I want students to find relevance and personal meaning fulfillment in their learning. I want them to be connected to their learning. I want them to enjoy their time in school and, and those aren’t utopic goals or desires from a teacher’s perspective. That can be our reality for all of our students. And, and it begs the question then, if that’s what I’m witnessing, what goes awry throughout a student’s learning experience in schooling experience, where does the curiosity tend to be something that isn’t as leveraged or honored?
And, and we all know the, the importance of literacy and numeracy, you know, as being building blocks to lifelong success. And I think that sometimes that’s maybe where we there’s a fork in the road in terms of how important those literacy numeracy skills are. I think we, as a, as a school of thinking as a body of educators need to reimagine literacy and numeracy through the vein of inquiry and through the foundation of collaboration and communication and social constructivism, and we don’t learn best by sitting still in rows, being told things are being walked through things we learn best by learning socially together interacting with one another getting our hands into learning, quite literally getting our hands into learning. And so I think that’s a big piece as the why cultivating and inquiry mindset is so important is that students don’t learn or you lose that, that ownership over learning.
And that, that curiosity, you know, I think another big reason Dan, is that, you know, it’s not just good enough for students to know a bunch of stuff anymore. It’s not just good enough for students to be able to perform well on a test. You know, those competencies that are becoming more and more part of what teachers are exploring as being a part of our role in a student’s life are, are very important. You know, what, what will be the legacy of our time with our students? It’s not the content knowledge any longer it’s these skills, these dispositions, these habits of mind and how our students not just see the world around them, but see themselves as learners and as thinkers. And so I think that that’s another big reason, you know, how are we cultivating competencies in the inquiry classroom? We are able to sharpen those competencies. More often more meaningfully and more personally, you know, students can set personalized competency goals across an an agency rich experience. And so those are a few reasons that come to mind immediately. Then it’s hard to hang my hat on one. But yeah, those are a few,
Yeah, look, I, I’ve got to say for me, the biggest reason why this is important for our students is because it actually develops the skills within them to be able to learn. I think that that’s really, really important for me because as a high school teacher, we often talk about what’s going to happen to these kids next year, once they leave school, what are the jobs that are going to exist? Because half the jobs that exist at the moment didn’t exist five years ago, you know, social media operator or marketers and stuff, they didn’t exist when I was at school because social media didn’t exist with us. So there’s these huge changes have happened. And we’re like, well, how do we then prepare students for that? And I think one of the best ways we can do that is actually to teach them the processes of how to learn things, which, you know, by doing this and stimulating inquiry, it helps students to go well, when I get to hit with a problem, with a challenge, for example, I know how to tackle that. I know how to go about the process of finding out all this stuff around it, to to do that research process, to find answers, to test answers, how to use other people in that process. And I think, yeah, this whole inquiry mindset and your other book to dive into inquiry really sets students up very well for life beyond school as well.
Thank you. Yeah. And you know, the content is important, then you, you know, the knowledge is important, but, but you know how we go about acquiring that, how we go about exploring questions and curiosities and, and the unknowns of what the future holds for us. You know, how do we plan for the uncertainties of tomorrow in the classrooms of today while we pose on Google-able questions, we pose questions that require us to really sink our teeth into them and explore different research pathways to get to the content. So the content is important, but it’s not the only thing that’s important to any longer in today’s class.
Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Trevor. It was lovely to chat to you again, and I look forward to our next time when we get together. Cause we’re gonna be chatting about your brand new book that comes out on the 15th of May, which is another inquiry mindset book, but this time focusing all on assessment. So thank you again for spending time with me. Thanks Dan. Looking forward to the next chat. Well, it does. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. If you did, please make sure you leave a review and also hit the subscribe button and make sure that you come back next week. We’ll be talking to Trevor McKenzie again in the book club episode, and we’re talking to him about his third book. That’s coming out on the 15th of February. Find out all about it now, next episode. But if you are looking for some links to collect with Trevor, or you want to get the transcript or anything related to this episode, please come to teacherspd.net/im for inquiry mindset and grab all the stuff that is there available for you. Thank you so much.