Chelsea L's Field Experience

Student-directed Investigation

 “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” -Lily Tomlin

In this final chapter of Larson and Keiper, the focus is on student-directed investigation and innovative ways to have the students get involved in their own education.  I thought the above picture and quote were appropriate because they represent a different way to think about learning and the typical classroom environment, something that we have been discussing heavily throughout the semester.  Student-directed investigation is a strategy that involves the “real-world” and puts the students in charge of learning how to solve problems, answer questions, and address real needs.  However, the part of this method that I found extremely important is giving the students a choice to choose a topic that interests them personally and do their own outside research on it.  This changes the dynamic between teacher and student and may ignite interests that students didn’t know they had.  

#student-directed investigation

I thought this type of learning was particularly interesting because my CT and I had just recently looked up Youtube videos of a phenomenon called “Flipping the Classroom”, in which the teacher puts all of his lectures online and class time is used for questions, experimentation, group work, etc.  The idea is that the background information is given in direct instruction and the critical thinking, analyzing, and investigating is discovered in class.  The youtube video is under the following link: 

This reminded me of student-directed investigation because in both cases the student is responsible for their own education and is able to take their education in whatever direction they please, in a way.  


One of the issues that is discussed in the book that I found important was choosing appropriate topics for discovery or inquiry learning.  The Japanese internment example was used as a case in which the teacher would need to lead the question, mentioning the denial of civil liberties and prejudice, instead of allowing students to answer the question in an inappropriate way.  This is especially important with younger students who may push what is or isn’t appropriate, something I have learned in my own field experience.

One of the other distinctions made by Larson and Keiper is discovery vs. inquiry learning.  Discovery learning is when a student or group of students is faced with an issue, problem or question and is expected to problem solve through different information resources.  This gives students a chance to use current events, controversies, etc. and look for their own answers and opinions.  Inquiry learning, on the other hand, is when a student is either given or creates a research question and goes through a series of steps to answer the question.  Both of these strategies are excellent ways to have students practice their research skills while also engaging in complex learning and higher level thinking.

I also like the suggestion of students creating a journal or portfolio with their “cases” for inquiry learning.  I think that for younger or unmotivated students it would help them feel more attached and responsible for the material, maybe providing motivation.  It would also be an easy way for teachers to check student’s progress or assess understanding.  However, I was thinking about the time constraint issue throughout the chapter, and Larson and Keiper mention it at the end.  While it would be neat to carry out an extended activity like this, it is also stressful for both the teacher and the student as they try to learn other material in the interim.  My CT had to teach his honors class how to do a DBQ, and was attempting to also keep them up with the Ancient China unit that the regular classes were learning about, which was a struggle.  Therefore, I see how this would become hard. However, if integrated into a unit plan correctly, I think this type of student-based investigation could be really rewarding and meaningful.

Another issue that I focused in on was classroom management and “controlled chaos”.  Teaching 9th graders in my field study, I tried to do a group work activity for my last lesson, which my teacher had never really tried before I did.  During first period, I really started to doubt my ability to “control the chaos” because the students seemed totally unaware that while they were allowed to work in groups, they also were expected to produce actual work. Throughout the day, I really emphasized expectations and checked on students more and it ended up working out nicely, but I think that’s a serious consideration for younger grades in this type of free environment.  Overall, I really like this idea because of the possibility of student choice and individual responsibility.


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