Chris Lehmann – Inquiry: The Very First Step In the Process of Learning

March 28, 2013
10:00 am - 11:00 am PST
By Educator Innovator

How do we learn? What can we create? What does it mean to lead? Insights from Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy.

SLA is built on the notion that inquiry is the very first step in the process of learning. Developed in partnership with The Franklin Institute and its commitment to inquiry-based science, SLA provides a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Students at SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.

View the Conversation
During the broadcast, the conversation also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #connectedlearning.

Key Questions and Comments:

  • (04:59) I’ve got three good reasons why this matters to us:
    • 1. The first is, most importantly, I’m a dad. My children are 8 and 6 years old and they don’t love school as much as I would like them to…So many of us who are in the teaching profession are also in the parenting business. We all want schools to be better for our own children.
    • 2. The second reason is that I’ve been really lucky over the last 10 years or so to talk to thousands of teachers–not many people feel good right now. It’s important to understand that teachers feel unease about what they’re doing right now and are looking for a better way.
    • 3. The third, of course, the kids we teach…Parents really engage in what I consider to be a sacred trust in that they send us their children every day.
  • (06:21) I get real upset when I hear people [say] the purpose of school is this idea of a 21st century workforce. I think that our job is far more important than that. What I think school tries to do is to help kids become the citizens we need, not so much the workforce we need…I think that’s a powerful difference that affects not only how, but what we teach.
  • (09:32) Inquiry, at its root, is the idea of intellectual play. The idea that we can get our hands dirty, we can ask powerful questions, we can seek out answers, and we can really add that time and space to play with our ideas.
  • (11:32) We have to understand our role is changing as teachers where we must be mentors in our classrooms–kids need us more than ever before…Every teacher that has ever taught knows that there has been a moment in time where they were the adult that mattered in a child’s life more than anybody else.
  • (12:41) We have to tell kids: high school is not just preparation for real life, high schoolis real life. We can do real things that matter right now with our kids.
  • (15:05) Because what we’re really teaching in the Information Age (when a kid who has an iPhone in their pocket has more access to information than a teacher has in their head), we’re teaching them Wisdom.
  • (16:58) I agree with you that the role of the teacher–and, in many ways, the role of student–has to change as well. How do we build the teachers that we need to for this environment?
  • (20:25) There are some questions from the Livestream Chat and also some folks on this webinar interested in that administrative piece and the school district piece. What might we talk to each other about in terms of building that support for the learner, “up the chain” as well?
  • (23:50) What do you feel like are the most important enabling technologies to allow us to realize the “Dewey vision” of progressive education? I’m really interested to know how you deal with students who arrive with, I imagine, a pretty wide variability in terms of grade levels, skills, mindsets, habits…on a day-to-day basis?
  • (27:42) I think some of the most important things about technology is that idea that you can personalize education, instead of everyone having the same thing in front of them. Like Chris was saying, everyone could be working on different strategies to get them to the same goal.
  • (29:05) I work in a ‘real-world’ school; we don’t even have wi-fi that works on a regular basis outside of the library…last week, our new district superintendent announced that he wants to go [1-to-1] and most of us sitting in my school are wondering how that’s going to happen. Not just financially, but just down to the basics of a wi-fi that doesn’t work in our building.
  • (33:51) Teaching with technology, many times, has become a subversive activity: you have to cobble together this infrastructure in your classroom, and that’s not appropriate.
  • (35:32) I think we overemphasize assessment, certainly summative assessment…I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize formative assessment. The notion of ‘the critique’ is a profound one. But the idea of the summative “You are worth a B” or “You are Proficient”…I don’t even know where to start with that.
  • (37:35) If we are saying that the bar to say “You are able to be a high school graduate” is something that most adults cannot do, we are doing profound harm to children. And we need to stop doing that. It’s that basic.
  • (39:53) I think we so often fall back on instead of doing the hard work…to come up with measurements for what we truly value, we just end up valuing what we’re currently measuring. And I think there’s a real loss in that.
  • (42:12) These issues of equity, they’re a real challenge for people who want to put learning models in place that will accelerate and support young people across the economic spectrum, across the community spectrum. These equity questions: anyone want to pick up on some of those?
  • (46:11) What policies & procedures, and what else needs to be in place so that teachers can have access to technology “like oxygen,” where it just works?
  • (46:35) As a culture, education needs to move to more of these open ed resources. We need to empower our teachers and students to make use of the tools that we have in our classroom currently.
  • (49:56) I think one of the struggles that I see: there’s just so much out there…one of the big issues I see is curation…How are we going to effectively select which tools to use? How are we going to curate those tools?
  • (52:37) I think, on some level, we have to understand that this isn’t optional anymore…the “this” are two things. The “this” is a technology infusion but, more importantly, the “this” is empowering, inquiry-driven education. This is what it’s needed for schools. And I don’t believe this is going to happen by anybody waving a magic wand.
  • (54:22) A better narrative–one that is empowering, one that is inclusive, one that is modern, one that is inquiry-driven, one that is caring–will resonate powerfully with families. And that’s where this change is going to be driven. It’s going to be driven house-by-house, school-by-school, district-by-district. This will be a grassroots movement, and it will be a connected movement. Because every school that moves this way has an obligation to blog about it, Tweet about it, share it.

Guests for this webinar included:

  • Elyse Eidman-Aadahl – Moderator/Host and Director at the National Writing Project
  • Chris Lehmann – Guest Speaker and founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy. Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In November of 2012, Chris was named one of Dell’s #Inspire100 – one of the 100 people changing the world using Social Media. In April of 2012, Chris won the Lindback Award for Excellence in Principal Leadership in the School District of Philadelphia. In September of 2011, Chris was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for his work in education reform.
  • Chip Linehan – Doctoral student in Education Leadership at Harvard
  • Amanda (Urbanczyk) Parashar – Teaching and Learning Coordinator at Springboard Media
  • Ian O’Byrne – Assistant Professor of Education at the University of New Haven
  • Michelle Brown – Middle school library media specialist in Baltimore, MD

Resources for this webinar:


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