Last week we visited the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII). I really enjoyed seeing how this school functions. Inquiry to me holds a lot of possibilities and it was interesting to see a way it can be used in schools. While I do not yet know if I would want to teach in a fully inquiry based environment, like many of our school visits I saw things I would want to incorporate in my teaching .
Often when we talk about inquiry there are questions about how students will be prepared for university, whether or not they will struggle in a more traditional schooling environment. When this was asked during our visit I really appreciated the answer, that students who are invested in their learning and aware of their goals and learning needs are plenty prepared not only for university but to choose what path works best for them. Often we treat the first year of university as a test, to see how to succeed in school, to find something you want to do. It is not possible for many people to pay for university to see if something interests them. It would be beneficial to students to have knowledge about their own learning and goals before university.
The other point that stuck out to me in our visit was the way the classes at this school are not mandatory but suggested. It is very different than any system I have experienced. At first this was almost hard to imagine, that students have such control over their schedule. Then I thought of my planning course in grade 10. I do not know the exact curriculum at the time I took this course but our class consisted of my teacher spending an hour of our day for a full semester reading grad requirements to us. Forms we would later read again in grade 12. At one point three students fell asleep in the same hour.
I knew at the time of this course that I was not gaining anything useful, but I did not ever think to question the structure of it. I didn’t think I could influence my own learning. I have heard of other student’s much more involved and useful planning 10 courses and I regret those hours I spent doing nothing. At PSII I imagine that not only would I have been able to leave and work on something more productive but the environment is more open to students asking questions about their own learning.