Moving towards an inquiry based classroom

A math teacher talks about how she modified her teaching methodologies to create meaningful changes in the classroom.

“When I was studying in a school in India, education was all about standardizing everything,” says Anuradha P, a physics and math teacher at the Trivandrum International School. “Now, there is a paradigm shift. Everyone is trying to differentiate, not standardize. Teachers are trying to meet children at their own levels and to push things forward.”


When such a monumental shift takes place, how does a teacher rise to the challenge? How does he or she differentiate and work with students at various levels of inquiry and ability? In her journey as a math and physics teacher, Anuradha reflects on specific teaching methodologies that helped her create an inquiry based approach in her classroom. IBL (Inquiry Based Learning) is not an easy task and only works when it is strongly scaffolded but Anuradha insists that she had many resources at her disposal to make these meaningful changes.


It is all about 21st century skills


When she was working outside India, Anuradha taught math in 8th and 9th grade. Before her foray into teaching, she volunteered and worked as a substitute teacher. She now teaches grade 6 at the Trivandrum International School and will move on to teaching grade 7 in the following year.


She says that learning goals and outcomes have changed significantly.

“We are now more international in our approach and we look at the world as a global village,” she says. “As a result, it is all about 21st century skills, and we are trying to bring in technology and active learning methodologies”.

Technology is a great tool to differentiate the curriculum


Anuradha insists that she uses technology to differentiate the curriculum and the approach for her students. It helps her allocate assignments and assessments to students based on their skill levels and enables her to view them from home. She also uses videos, quizzes, and Kahoots to engage students in the classroom. In her view, it is a very good formative tool as it can help record formatives and then proceed with how you are and where you want to go.


When it comes to Callido’s resources, Anuradha maintains that the training and integration processes for the teachers are as important as the resources themselves.


“I teach math and physics, so I try to incorporate tools like the timeline and I always do KWL (Know, Want, Learn) charts, tree charts, graphic organizers, compare contrast and the Venn diagrams. In the 6th grade, students find it hard to put ideas and facts together, so these graphic organizers help them to see their ideas and to understand concepts even better. We were doing the history of astronomy in physics. The timeline came in so handy! We were able to incorporate it into our lesson.”


Approaches to teaching based on inquiry


Anuradha is not just a teacher at TIS but a parent too. Her two children study in the same school that she teaches in. She declares there Callido’s resources are helping them master some truly important 21st century skills. “My children are already talking about the differences between facts and opinion, whenever they see or read something,” she says. “They are also aware of plagiarism and how to cite their sources. At school, students are using many of the tools to compare and contrast ideas and lessons. I think that if these skills and lessons are reinforced, it will really help them.”


Anuradha points out a key difference in how schools work with children today.

During my time as a student, I studied in a CBSE school and when we were taught a subject, we would only be taught that subject. We were never asked to question the teacher because the teacher was always right. But now, when you discuss a topic in class, all students ask questions and we encourage it. This is important because it builds critical thinking, which is key.

Converting ideas into actionable lesson plans


According to Anuradha, when a person trains to be a teacher, or is pursuing a course like the B.Ed., they are given a lot of theory to work with but don’t know how to convert that into a lesson plan or a practical lesson. It is not easy to just take theory and make it into practical work. Class management must also incorporate techniques into lessons and must help a teacher plan and manage their work.

Callido has helped us do that, she adds.

When it comes to ATLs, Anuradha thinks that the most challenging aspect is benchmarking. Are we sure that the student understood something? How much did they understand? How much of the ATL skills did they develop and how much are they able to do by themselves? “We think we give 100%,” says Anuradha. “But how much did they absorb and how much are they able to do on their own? These parameters are important to measure outcomes.” If a teacher can work on her methodologies and develop these ATLs, then the results are astounding.


Anuradha cites the example of one of her DP students. “He came in as I was tutoring another student about wind energy, and he immediately came up with his own ideas. He asked about the cost effectiveness of wind energy, if it would be better on one metal over the other and what should be the cost in order to make a profit. Being a DP student, he was able to take on an entrepreneurial trajectory and I was surprised to that level of thinking.”


Within minutes of listening to a teacher discuss something, students are brimming with ideas to implement these lessons and how practical or effective they are. “If I am able to encourage them to work on such skills, then I am doing my job,” she signs off.

At Callido, we believe that teaching is not just a job, but it is a life journey. Our series on spotlighting the skills champions captures the journey of various educators from across the world towards skills development in their classrooms. To read more about the journey of other inspiring teachers and educators, log onto https://blog.callidolearning.com

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