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IB @ WMS Encouraging Learning by Questioning

The IB’s mission is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To develop an inquiring mind, students need to be given the opportunity to ask questions.

Curiosity is a natural attribute of a young mind. Nurturing that trait encourages students to take a vested interest in the subject they are learning about. It takes planning and patience to allow a student’s curiosity to guide a lesson, but that is exactly what is happening in the classrooms at Westlake Middle School in subjects all across the board.

In 7th grade English, questions are forming the backbone of a six-week long research project. ELA teachers Christina Carmona and Krystal Haight have recently introduced a unit called “Making Real Arguments”. Students are learning how to present a research- based argument on a current social issue of their choosing while at the same time perfecting their reading and writing skills. The unit kicks off with the students having the opportunity to view humorous cartoons that touch on a debatable issue. There is no right or wrong answer to these topics so the student is tasked with asking questions, researching answers and delving deeper into their topic to form an opinion. They are encouraged to pay attention to an author’s perspective and potential bias and required to have a minimum of four resources.

The project gets them asking “What do I think?” Students are able to shape the project based on their interests. One student, who has an aptitude for science, is investigating whether parents should be required to vaccinate their children. Another student is researching the topic of allowing refugees into the country and still another is asking if cell phones should be allowed in school. It’s sparking conversations and debate in the classroom as students share information with each other and points of view that may not have been previously considered. Ms. Carmona remarked, “They are learning from each other and they love it.”

Encouraging students to be curious, ask questions, and investigate answers teaches them to take an active part in their education. Trevor MacKenzie, an award winning English teacher and Instructional Coach focusing on inquiry, highlighted the benefits that come with inquiry based learning. Nurturing students’ passions, fostering curiosity and a love of learning and developing strong research skills are just a few. This type of open-ended teaching encourages students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right - a guiding principle in the IB framework.

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