Feedback & Inquiry Twitter Chat Part II

Twitter Chat:

Thursday March 31, @ 9:00 PM  #ontsshg

Link to our new Wonder-Wall Part II!





On Feb. 25, we had an amazing Twitter chat that centered around the interconnections between Feedback and Inquiry in the #ontsshg classroom. A big thanks to Louise Robitaille for inviting me to be the host of this amazing chat:)

Here is a Storify of the chat:

I had also created a Wonder-Wall for us to share questions, comments and other wonderings that you had about Inquiry and Feedback Processes. This is the link here:


The wonder wall was excellent. I think that largely due to the anonymity, we got a page full of valuable questions about feedback and inquiry based learning. I don’t think that we would have had these kinds of questions come up normally on twitter feeds. This Wonder-Wall really provided a place to be ‘vulnerable’, demonstrate a Growth Mindset, and not fear the very real questions that we take with us as teachers.

Also, I believe that when we allow our students to engage in this kind of ‘wondering’ activity, we get a sense of ‘where they are at’ in their understanding. Likewise, as educators, when we have these rare moments to ask anonymous questions, we can learn how to help each other move forward.

Hence, I did not forget about our shared wonder-wall after our last chat however– I am very passionate about Pedagogy, Inquiry, Feedback and Learning – so I stayed with it, compared it with our Storify, and created about 20 more questions that grew out of your own questions and wonderings. Unfortunately, I cannot address all of the questions in our next Twitter chat on Thursday March 31 at 9:00 PM – But I will add them as an addendum to this blog post, and our new Wonder-Wall.

My hope is that this is also a way for us to truly collaborate and work together to propel our learning forward on our journeys with Inquiry and Feedback – particularly as it pertains to the Social Studies, History, and Geography Classroom. Our next Twitter chat is Thursday March 31, 9PM #ontsshg


Here is the link to our new Wonder-Wall – and other questions (that won’t necessarily be in our chat on Thursday night) – but might spur some great collaborative knowledge building!!





I really look forward to learning with you all on Thursday March 31, 9PM

If you wish to engage in any of these extra questions that I created, right here in the comment section of my blog – please do! I have other questions that we will discuss on Thursday.

A great way for us to build knowledge again. They could even spur on new questions for our wonder-wall:)

  • How can you implement feedback and inquiry processes in Kindergarten?
  • How can I give feedback to students that helps them to incorporate FNMI perspectives and ways of knowing in their inquiries?
  • If in a split grade, should Inquiry questions be kept separate for each grade?
  • Share any great strategies for feedback and inquiry that have worked with you!
  • What feedback can you give to help students, while in inquiry, to move to deeper levels of learning?  
  • What role does feedback play in determining how much information students need before and during an inquiry in order to be successful?
  • How can you use feedback and inquiry to properly challenge students who are gifted?
  • In promoting inquiry, are we using feedback and support to always guide students toward the Big ideas?
  • How will I know whether students are using their feedback to improve their learning?
  • For our final reporting methods, what could be the benefits of replacing the final report card with Portfolios full of meaningful feedback from before, during and after student inquiries?
  • Inquiry can take a long time, and not all students are ready to engage in inquiry processes at the same time. How do we differentiate for a whole class at vastly different places in their learning?
  • What feedback strategies can help students ask deeper questions?
  • What preliminary strategies are necessary to build the feedback frameworks necessary to conduct inquiry?
  • What conditions need to be in place to help students seek feedback?
  • There is so much curriculum. Where do we begin? How do we determine what part of inquiry is the most important?



Deborah McCallum



The Feedback Friendly Classroom



14 Considerations for Inquiry Based Learning


Inquiry is essential.

The fact is that students come to school with partial knowledges.  But the curriculum documents themselves do not address the parts that students know or don’t know. It has been built to present to us about the privileged people and only the most successful moments in history according to those people. Textbooks, websites and other resources generally reinforce this. It may not represent the real stories of our students.

For instance, social studies, history and geography generally focuses on the privileged people who had the ability to win and ‘own’ history. Just consider the lack of focus on anyone who is not privileged in history. For instance, Women, FNMI, Slaves, Middle Easterners, and more. We hear about the achievements of the upper class, but none about the working class.

Just consider the fact that it was not too long ago that only men were thought to be able to think scientifically or mathematically? The last Residential School closed in the 1990’s.

Where does this leave our students who already know some of these things about the world? What about the students who have other equally important knowledge of the world as what is shared in curriculum documents?

This is precisely why Inquiry is an essential part of our curriculum! 

Without student and teacher inquiry, knowledges remain partial and limited. Biases and stereotypes prevail.

But how do you foster inquiry? How do we make it meaningful for students? 

14 important conditions for meaningful student inquiry:

  1. We create a culture of wonder for our students! Wonder walls, and wonder journals are just 2 ways to support this culture:)
  2. We lead students with Big Ideas vs specific expectations.
  3. We encourage questions! We encourage students to continue to refine and hone in their questions, and we model good ones for our students.
  4. We reserve closed questions for Google, but teach skills to help students read and synthesize information for open questions.
  5. We know that younger students need more structure. But as students get older, we enable very messy, rigourous and ambigous inquiries. This really pushes students to demonstrate flexible thinking, and metacognition, grit and more!
  6. We have clear expectations of students, including the expectation that they will need to demonstrate their new understandings from their research.
  7. We allow students to research that which is not ‘privileged’.
  8. We allow connections to their own lives –  even if it is not listed as a concrete expectation in a curriculum document.
  9. Sometimes questions require new background knowledge. Students background knowledge might be only partial. Therefore, we realise that we may need to take time with activities that help students build background information first. We know that teachers and students alike may need to investigate something completely new and uncomfortable first to continue!
  10. We emphasize the process of inquiry, and not merely the creation of the end product.
  11. We realise that different students will be focusing on different skills, and/or different numbers of skills. But we are okay with this because learning is happening!
  12. We hold students accountable to high standards. We expect high quality conclusions, connections, inferences and many other forms of comprehension.
  13. We – as in teachers and learners alike – are continually engaged in feedback and assessment FOR and AS learning processes!
  14. We become comfortable with the fact that this is not ideally done in 1 – 2 fifty minute blocks a week.


What do you wonder about the Inquiry Process?

If you have a moment, please take a moment to fill out this Padlet Wonder Wall:




Deborah McCallum


What is important in Education?

What is Important in Education?


I have recently been doing some reading and listening to  John Seely Brown, and so much of what he has discussed in his work resonates with my own thought processes and inquiries right now.

As I think about how our education system needs to change in order to promote the kind of learning that our students need, I am reminded that change is omnipresent. ‘Things’ are changing so rapidly, that ‘skills’ become redundant much faster than they ever have in history. Do we move beyond the skills to focus on ‘higher’ order thinking’ and helping students to ‘learn to learn’? I now realize after watching this video, that it is much more.


Play is perhaps the most basic building block of knowledge building. Play needs imagination, and imagination needs to be cultivated through play. Through ‘play’ students get to try new things out, ask each other what works, and what doesn’t work. The teacher provides access to new resources as needed to help students along in their processes. By ‘playing’ and sharing what we are doing, as learners we are able to witness what we are all doing.. we witness each others struggle, and hopefully gaining an understanding about what we are all going through – not just as individuals. It is through ‘play’ that we enable knowledge to be learned through concrete, and not merely abstract concepts. Our imagination can be applied to tangible elements that can be experienced by all of our senses, and not just our mids. These are also important ideas that many FNMI peoples and cultures have always held dear – the concepts known to be true –that we learn best by doing and watching others – Masters and novices alike. All with a sense of ‘humility’.

In this world, humility is so important. We give credit where credit is due, and we build our own knowledge from that. We are not solely the Master of our knowledge, we are also the learners, the creators – then we quickly move on to new learning. We ‘mash-up’ the learning, and as educators, we re-purpose what we have already done in our classrooms and learning environments. We redefine and modify our learning, and expand the knowledge bases with our own creativity. Every student and group is different, therefore why would we teach the same things year after year?

Next, connections to community are important as well.  What we do should be done for the sake of building our communities and families, and built with our communities as well. What we do we share with our communities, and what we do is influenced by our communities and cultures.

Finally, Social identity can be measured in new ways in the 21st century! Social capital and identity is being reconstructed in this day in age, by what we create and share. I was very inspired by John’s assertions that our students no longer need to be identified by what their parents ‘do’ or by ‘what they make’. Students can now identify themselves by what they create – and everyone can create something important and useful and interesting – it should not have to fall into a narrow category of isolated expectations as outlined by the curriculum.

Therefore, now, I am looking beyond higher order thinking skills, and am thinking towards ‘entrepreneurial learning’ in our students. I have new inquiries to explore:

How can we help our learners to be ready to pick up new information all the time?

How can we help our learners to be active participants in their learning?

In conclusion, I will leave with some of my thoughts for promoting the kind of change we need in education in 2014:

In the 21st Century we NEED to:

  • move beyond the specific expectations of our curriculum, and focus on the overall expectations.
  • adopt a multidisciplinary approach to teaching
  • remember what many of the the First Nations Metis and Inuit cultures have always fostered: a sense of ‘interconnectedness’ among people and ideas
  • look at the structures of learning and not just the learning itself to gain true insights into future pedagogies
  • take closer looks at other models of teaching that include ‘play’
  • not make education about the technology
  • allow our learners to engage in Inquiry
  • move beyond traditional boundaries and cultivate paths of inquiry as the only paths to meaningful learning for our students
  • recognize the ecology of our learning systems
  • understand that literacy and learning takes many forms and functions – just as our physical structures do.


Reference: John Seely Brown: Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Inquiry-based learning: harnessing children’s natural curiosity


A checklist available to help guide your Inquiry planning in Education.

Sharing Simcoe

What is inquiry-based learning?

inquiryInquiry-based learning is an educational strategy that builds on something we all do: ask questions about the world around us. Children are particularly curious and full of wonder. As educators, we can harness that natural curiosity within our students and help them to learn and grow from those questions.

The inquiry process is connected to this process of asking questions. However, it is much more complex than merely asking questions and finding answers. It is a process by which we encourage students to find the information they are seeking, and then help them to turn that information into something useful and directly related to them.

Inquiry is about expanding the minds of our children, beyond the basic content of the curriculum.

Ideally, what we want to do as educators is use the inquiry process to help students create personalized learning experiences. This involves asking the questions…

View original post 791 more words

Making the Shift to Inquiry Based Instruction


Currently I am re-examining my instructional practice, and trying to understand how I can effectively teach students to nurture a sense of wonder about the Natural world around us. With my current focus, on integrating FNMI strategies into the Science Curriculum, I have decided that Inquiry Based Learning is a strategy worthy of researching and implementing, to provide the most effective educational strategies for students.

However, Inquiry based Learning can be more difficult than it sounds. To give students a key role in directing their own personal learning experiences, often flies in the face of the more traditional teaching frameworks and personal schemata that we have been learned about teaching itself, and practiced for many years!

Some situations that I believe are wonderful opportunities to include Inquiry Based Learning include, but are not limited to:

  • The Learning Commons & conducting Research
  • Learning 21st Century Technologies
  • Science
  • Numeracy
  • Integrating First Nations, Metis & Inuit perspectives,
  • Special needs including working with students on the Autism Spectrum & ADD/ADHD
  • Virtually anything the Educator sees fit!

I also envision Inquiry based learning also as ‘Brain-Based Learning’, where new neural networks can be built within the brain from hands-on learning and experiential learning. It helps students to use our brains in different, creative, personal, and concrete ways! For instance, students could design their own scientific experiments based upon the ‘Big Ideas’, link it to their own cultural background, use the resources within the Learning Commons, and then test out their own experiments and sharing their findings. The lists can go on!

Barriers to Inquiry Based Learning: Perceived and Real

Often, in our instructional units and lesson planning, it is easy to think in a linear fashion, with each new concept or expectation building upon the other. Further, certain subjects, including Science, are often be deemed a subject to be handed off to a planning time teacher, thus increasing focus on Literacy and Numeracy. When this happens, teachers are often trying to ‘fit’ the science curriculum in to 1,2, or 3 Fifty minute blocks. With increasing pressures to fit in many expectations within limited time frames, it can feel that the very subjects that lend themselves well to Inquiry Based Learning are placed on the back burner in favour of strategies deemed necessary for literacy and numeracy. So, where can we begin as educators?

How to start making your classroom and Learning Commons ready for Inquiry-Based Learning

How do we take what we have, and start the process to making Inquiry Based Instruction happen with students? How can we meet curriculum expectations and still allow students to be directly involved in their learning and shaping their own personal understanding of the world around them?

You can start with baby-steps, or you can jump in with both feet and make it happen! Either way, it is a process that involved changing your schemas of how students should learn, and how teachers should teach.

It takes flexibility, thinking about the curriculum in a balanced way, and trusting your own professional judgement that you will be able to guide students effectively through the curriculum, without the pressure that you must cover each and every curriculum expectation. This is because you value the process of student learning more than ‘covering’ every single thing on your prescribed list.

A teacher in the Inquiry Based classroom will understand where students need to ‘go’ with their learning, so that they can ‘facilitate’ student learning, but not methodically planning out each lesson or experiment with a prescribed set of rules that must be followed. This will enable student learning to become more personalized and increase retention. It will also promote the building of important learning skills and strategies that will help students out when they are learning outside of the classroom.

I also believe it involves understanding the curriculum expectations yourself inside out and backwards, and understanding where students need to ‘go’ so that teachers can ‘facilitate’ student learning. However, on that note, teachers do not need to be methodically planning out each lesson or experiment to a prescribed set of rules. The process of student learning is more important than covering each and every curriculum expectation!

Strategies for implementing Inquiry Based Learning within your Classroom 

  • So far, I have found the use of Circles and ‘Talking Circles‘ to be very beneficial in terms of sharing knowledge and information on a regular basis.
  • Provide Hands-On experiences!
  • Allow students to ask questions!
  • Students can also work in ‘Groups’, and face each other.
  • Ensure that you help students connect the information and Curriculum directly to the students personal lives and cultural backgrounds.
  • Engage in Culturally Relevant Teaching Practices
  • Take the learning outside when possible!
  • Read Relevant Picture Books to the class!
  • Differentiate your Instruction!
  • Encourage Brainstorming opportunities with the students!
  • Reflect on Learning and ideas any opportunity you have!
  • Listen carefully to the students questions to inform the next potential learning experience!
  • Focus on the Big Ideas instead of specific curriculum expectations.
  • Enable students to use all of the ‘Senses’ to experience the world around us

Personal Reflections

When creating an Inquiry-Based Learning Experience, it is beneficial to really understand and know the curriculum you are teaching. Having this knowledge will help guide you toward the types of questions and learning experiences that you want to see from your students, so that you can work to be a leader and facilitator for the students to ensure they are learning the ‘Big Ideas’ and overarching concepts. You really need to trust in yourself as well, and be flexible! Finally, throw away any assumptions that you will cover the content in prescribed amounts of time. Most of the learning experiences that you will end up facilitating with your students will either take much longer, or shorter than you may have originally expected!

For me, this is a work in progress! I would love to hear from others about your personal experiences and learning curve with Inquiry Based Learning!

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.