Navigating the road

Learning is never complete and during my expert search journey, I started to believe that my searching and reading would never be complete. The information continually pulled me in and had me wanting to find more. Initially searching my three questions separately, I knew that I had to narrow my search or I would continue travelling aimlessly down the winding road of discovery. With the beginning search behind me, I decided on one primary inquiry question, “How can inquiry learning be effectively implemented in a multi-age classroom?”.

Armed with my narrowed focus, I began the search again. Normally when researching for an assignment, my first port of call is the QUT library database for scholarly articles but I decided to go mainstream and see what I could find, and google didn’t disappoint. There were numerous hits on the question (search stream – ‘How can inquiry based learning be effectively implemented in a multi-age classroom‘) which narrowed in on multi-age education as opposed to inquiry learning. The scholarly articles and links were very focused on multi-age but interestingly the videos honed in on inquiry learning and the learning theories. I used Google, Google Scholar, ProQuest and the QUT library as my platforms for searching and drew the line there.  Using these search engines and platforms I had gathered a significant amount of information and felt that I needed to stop looking – on every journey there needs to be a point where you stop and use the best of what you have found. As I continued to search, my searches were refined and became narrow and sharp.

Interestingly, through the research I found that inquiry learning came up as a result in many early childhood articles and teaching approaches. This led me to evolve my search to include early childhood because effective early years pedagogy is focused on child centred, authentic learning that develops and builds on children’s natural curiosity. This led me to look at my searching terms and build that into my search. The below diagram demonstrates how my searching evolved and changed through the searches – I used the same searches on all platforms to compare the effectiveness of the terms. The simple searches yielded more results for me and I found searching each part of the question separately and finding the commonalities in the information was an effective information gathering method. The table below demonstrates the results from Google for some sample searches. Interestingly the results were similar across platforms, that the broader my search the more suggestions which I didn’t find overwhelming but helpful as it provided related information I hadn’t thought of in relation to my search. Whilst Google Scholar, ProQuest and QUT Library didn’t have the numbers that Google presented, the results did mimic the trends seen below.

Development of Searches

Mind map of search evolution

ProQuest and the QUT Library database produced results with the most matches to the key words in my search. Using whole questions and sentences inhibited my search and made me question my methods. Breaking down the parts of the inquiry question and critically reflecting on the information was the most fruitful searching as it caused me to synthesise and connect the information helping me clarify the important factors for answering my inquiry. The image below outlines a ProQuest search string and the results gave many articles I found relevant and interesting to the topic.

Proquest search

Screenshot from search in ProQuest by Blog owner.

Project based learning was repeatedly produced as a related search in ProQuest for Inquiry learning. I found this to be interesting as I see project-based learning as a highly teacher led inquiry approach and I thought I would find more information related to open inquiry with a child centred and child-initiated approach. Intriguingly, project-based learning was a fruitful search in relation to multi-age settings in schools and open inquiry predominantly resulted in early childhood settings and adult learning. This made me think about what happens between prior to school settings and formal schooling settings that changes the way we approach education with children. Do teachers find using a child centred approach to implement the curriculum an unmanageable task? What learnings can we take from early childhood pedagogy and apply to formal schooling approaches? Questioning the information prompted me to change my initial inquiry question.

Initial Question

How can inquiry learning be effectively implemented in a multi-age setting?

Final Question

How can early childhood pedagogy support inquiry learning in multi-age classrooms?

Searching results clearly indicated to me a strong link between early childhood education, multi-age education and inquiry learning. These three search terms helped me to clarify my understanding of each concept and the overlaps with approaches, beliefs and pedagogy. My most fruitful terms in ProQuest and QUT Library Database were – Early childhood education, Multi-age Education and Inquiry learning. Streams of searches – ‘inquiry learning’ AND ‘early childhood’ AND ‘multi-age’ – ‘early childhood philosophy’ AND ‘multi-age’ – ‘inquiry learning’ AND ‘multi-age’.  These provided the most relevant information for my inquiry and gave me interesting and informative references to respond to the question.  I uncovered some educational websites that had articles from academics in the field which I found very interesting.  The links below had a number of articles that helped develop my understanding of inquiry learning which clarified my thinking as I continued journeying down the inquiry road.

The Conversation – Teaching children how to think

Inquiry Learning in the Australian Curriculum

Ted Talk – The Power of Student Driven Learning

Ted Talk – What if students controlled their own learning


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